Even for members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, crime doesn’t pay. And it doesn’t necessarily deliver benefits either. That’s especially true on the South Boston docks. On October 2, after a four-day trial, a Suffolk County, Massachusetts jury found union dockworker Robert Miller guilty of logging more than 100 hours on time sheets that he hadn’t worked so as to meet the minimum threshold hours necessary to qualify for certain benefits. Eight days later, on October 10, the jury convicted Francis Biagiotti on similar fraud and conspiracy charges. The two cases were the last resulting from 20 state indictments over two years ago.
The case centered on South Boston’s Conley Terminal, where longshoremen load and unload container ships for the Massachusetts Port Authority, also known as “Massport.” As reported in these pages, then-Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly in April 2005 began a criminal investigation in response to complaints by Massport that certain longshoremen had been engaging in a pattern of payroll fraud. For one thing, some workers would place minors on the union payroll so that later, as adults, they would have amassed the seniority to qualify for high wages. Additionally, some dockworkers knowingly would inflate their hours so as to meet the minimum standard for benefits. The probe subsequently revealed both types of fraud occurred during 2003-04. A grand jury handed down 118 indictments against 20 persons in August 2006, implicating members of International Longshoremen’s Association Locals 799, 800 and 805.
Miller, 49, during 2004 had worked as a Conley Terminal longshoreman. During April and August of that year, he asked another longshoreman to work hours under his name so that union timesheets would show he received credit for those hours. As a result of the scheme, Miller wound up with 116 extra hours of “work.” The jury deliberated about six and a half hours before voting to convict him. On October 10, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle imposed 18 months of probation and a $5,000 fine. Judge Hinkle subsequently sentenced Biagiotti, 55, to one year of probation on all charges, set to run concurrently. In that case, the defendant in September 2004 had allowed the son of a senior longshoreman working on the docks to be fraudulently credited with hours not worked by writing in his Social Security number.
These are the last two cases to be cleared; the other 18 defendants in the probe either have pleaded guilty or were convicted by trial. The combined total of court-ordered restitution payable to the Boston Shipping Association and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts exceeds $250,000. Assisting the Massachusetts Attorney General in the investigation were the U.S. Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, plus the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. (U.S. States News, 10/3/08; 10/24/08; Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, 10/14/08).