John Ulrich exacted a high price for his favors. Now he’s paying a high price. On July 22, Ulrich, ex-vice president and recording secretary of the Great Neck (Long Island), N.Y.-based International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 812, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 18 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, for soliciting and receiving bribes from a union health plan administrator in return for retaining that person’s services. He also was ordered to forfeit $55,000 in personal assets and pay restitution in a sum to be determined later. Ulrich had pleaded guilty in December 2019 following his indictment that February. The actions follow a probe by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.
Teamsters Local 812 represents about 3,000 beverage industry workers in the New York City metropolitan area. Its generous health plan covers a wide range of expenses. Apparently, it offered generous opportunities on the side for John Ulrich. According to prosecutors, Ulrich, now 50, a resident of Newburgh, N.Y., in or around 2013 solicited bribes from a third-party administrator (“Executive-1”) of the health plan. Prior to this, the plan sent out a request for proposals for a new administrator. Executive-1 was alarmed that this might be the end of the contract. Ulrich, a plan trustee, told him he would pull some strings to retain the contract, but that it would require quid pro quo in the form of payments of $5,000 per quarter. Executive-1 agreed to the arrangement, and shortly thereafter began making payments. His contract was safe in the face of multiple alternative bids now coming in.
The payoffs might have continued without notice but for the fact that John Ulrich, who was experiencing personal financial problems, got greedy. In or about 2014, he allegedly demanded an increase in the size of the bribe. Ulrich told Executive-1 that the hike was necessary in order to placate another health plan trustee. Executive-1 complied. That still wasn’t enough for Ulrich. On or about September 19, 2015, he allegedly extracted additional payments on behalf of the trustee. In an email sent that date to the administrator, he referred to the bribes as “pizza,” strongly suggesting that extra toppings were needed. By 2016, however, the board of trustees was getting suspicious. That February, the board convened a special meeting at which it fired Ulrich from his union positions. But the damage was done. Ulrich already had collected tens of thousands of dollars in payoffs. A Justice Department prosecution eventually followed. After sentencing, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss remarked: “For years, John Ulrich betrayed the trust of the union members who elected him in order to line his pockets with bribe money.”