John Ulrich collected a high price for doing 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 his services. He also was ordered to forfeit $55,000 in personal assets and pay restitution of 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 would be the end of his contract. Ulrich, a plan trustee, told him he would pull some strings to continue retaining, but that it would require quid pro quo in the form of payments of $5,000 per quarter. Executive-1 agreed to the arrangement. Shortly thereafter, he began making payments. His job was now safe despise multiple alternative bids coming in from other third-party administrators.
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 standard bribe payment. Ulrich told Executive-1 that the hike was necessary to placate another health plan trustee. Executive-1 complied. That still wasn’t enough for Ulrich. On or about September 19, 2015, he solicited additional payments on behalf of the trustee. In an email that date to the executive, he referred to the bribes as “pizza.” Extra payoffs would be “good insurance.” By 2016, however, union officials were getting suspicious. That February, the health plan board of trustees convened a special meeting at which it fired Ulrich from his positions of vice president and plan trustee. But the damage was done. Ulrich already had collected tens of thousands of dollars in bribes. A criminal prosecution followed. Following 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.”