Independent Union Boss in New York Sentenced for Role in $1M+ Scams

For years, Rocco Fazzolari used his union and a related benefit plan as sources of easy money. He’s now about to live the hard life. Fazzolari, formerly president of United Industrial and Service Employees Union Local 122, today was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 37 months in prison for embezzlement, false record-keeping and receiving kickbacks from the East Meadow (Long Island), N.Y. -based union. Through these schemes, he and an unnamed co-conspirator had enriched themselves by more than $1.3 million. In addition to serving prison time, he will have to forfeit $941,828 in assets and pay restitution of $1,288,810.75. Fazzolari had pleaded guilty in September following a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General, and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

According to prosecutors, Fazzolari, now 58, a resident of Manhasset Hills, Long Island, during 2012-16 embezzled union funds to pay for … Read More ➡

Boston-Area Police Union Discovers Money Is Missing

Police unions represent people who arrest thieves, not employ them. In Somerville, Mass., they’ve got both types. Last week, a source close to the local police department in Somerville, adjacent to Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, revealed that the Somerville Police Employees Association (SPEA), an independent union of nearly 100 patrol officers, is missing between $50,000 and $90,000 from its coffers and that the culprit is one of its own. SPEA President Michael McGrath indicated that the case is under investigation, but would not comment further. No outside government agencies have gotten involved yet, but that could change soon.… Read More ➡

Sheila Jackson Lee Resigns from Subcommittee, Foundation in Wake of Ex-Staffer Suit

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has a well-earned reputation for vindictiveness. But she’s now reaped poetic justice. Yesterday the Texas Democrat resigned her posts as chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation following a wrongful termination suit filed earlier this month by an ex-female staffer identified in court documents as “Jane Doe.” The former aide, who seeks $75,000 in damages, had been fired last spring after stating her intent to pursue legal action against a former foundation employee, Damien Jones, who allegedly raped her back in the fall of 2015, a time during which she interned for another House member. Lee has denied wrongdoing from the start. But increasing pressure from black colleagues helped persuade her to step down.

Now in her 13th term in office, Sheila Jackson Lee represents the heavily black 18th District of Texas, which encompasses a large portion of Houston. … Read More ➡

Kamala Harris Goes to Bat for the SEIU

Kamala Harris, the junior U.S. senator from California, is a woman in a hurry. Elected in 2016, Harris today announced her candidacy for president in 2020. “I’m running for president of the United States, and I’m very excited about it,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Her track record, however, suggests she would be the kind of president who among other things would cut ethical corners on behalf of labor unions. Back in 2015, Harris, as California attorney general, helped a powerful affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) scotch the purchase of a half-dozen nonprofit health care facilities by a corporate buyer to protect union jobs. While a federal judge twice has dismissed allegations by the buyer, Prime Healthcare, that she abused her office, the case deserves another look.

Kamala Devi Harris, now 54, is a fast-rising Democratic Party star. Of Indian and Jamaican descent, she’s emerged … Read More ➡

Independent Union President in Oregon Pleads Guilty

On December 20, John Burgess, former president of Pacific Stainless Products Employee Association Local 304, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to one count of concealment or destruction of financial records of the St. Helens-based union. He had been indicted in September on one count of embezzling about $35,000 and one count of concealment. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

The year 2018 saw the indictment, conviction and sentences of plenty of organized labor scams. New York City played host to some of the largest. For sheer magnitude, nothing anywhere could match the network of union fraud surrounding the construction of Hudson Yards, a large-scale, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s West Side. Set for completion in 2024, the project from the start has been a source of easy money for labor organizations affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. The general contractor, Related Companies, having reached the limits of frustration, filed suit last March with the State Supreme Court against the council and its president for promoting or allowing illegal practices that allegedly have added over $100 million to the total project cost.

In other cases from the Big Apple, the president of a United Industrial and Service Employees local, Rocco Fazzolari, pleaded guilty … Read More ➡

Iowa Local Insulators Business Manager Indicted

On December 19, Ted Watson, former business manager for International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 74, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa for embezzlement, mail fraud and making false statements against the Des Moines-based union. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

New Jersey Executive Pleads Guilty to UAW Benefit Fraud

First, the union leader pleaded guilty. Then, it was his business partner’s turn. On December 14, Lawrence Ackerman, head of a pair of shell insurance brokerages, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to a superseding information for health care fraud, part of a long-running scheme that fleeced a United Auto Workers benefit plan and a Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate out of a combined $6.6 million. He had been indicted in January 2017. Sergio Acosta, former president of United Auto Workers Local 2326, pleaded guilty to his role in the scam last April. The actions follow a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Union Corruption Update has covered this case twice before (here and here). Lawrence Ackerman, now 54, a resident of Old Tappan (Bergen County), N.J., was … Read More ➡

Local Carpenters Financial Secretary in Kentucky Indicted

On December 17, Robin Ray Bishop, former financial secretary of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2501, was indicted in the Jefferson County Circuit Court for the Commonwealth of Kentucky on one count of theft by deception in a sum of over $500, nine counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, and one count of falsifying business records. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

IATSE President in Virginia Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Embezzlement

On December 19, Benjamin Wisecarver, former president of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 264, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and embezzlement in the amount of $57,310 from the Hampton union. He had been indicted on multiple counts in October. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

 … Read More ➡