Southern California Independent Union Boss Sentenced for $800K Embezzlement

The Romeros no longer are a family that stays together let alone one that steals together. On February 12, John S. Romero, former president of United Industrial and Service Workers of America (UISWA), was convicted by a jury in Los Angeles federal court of 14 felony charges related to the theft of nearly $800,000 from the health care plan of the Colton (San Bernardino County), Calif.-based union. His wife, son and daughter already have testified for the prosecution after pleading guilty to various charges. The four were arrested and indicted five years ago following an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration. Sentencing for the elder Romero is set for April 27. He faces up to 130 years in prison.

National Legal and Policy Center has covered this case before (here and here). John S. Romero, now … Read More ➡

Insurance Executive in New Jersey Sentenced for Role in $6.6M Scam

Lawrence Ackerman isn’t going to spend too much time behind bars, but his business career deservedly is over. On January 15, Ackerman, founder of two fake health insurance brokerages, was sentenced in Trenton, N.J. federal court to six months in prison and six months of home confinement for his role in a $6.6 million fraud scheme. He also was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the welfare fund of United Auto Workers Local 2326, now based in South River, N.J. Ackerman had pleaded guilty in December 2018 after being indicted in January 2017. His partner in crime, former union president Sergio Acosta, was sentenced a little over a year ago to three years of home confinement, and ordered to pay $32,000. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Lawrence Ackerman, now 55, a … Read More ➡

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Perhaps more than usual, corruption stories in 2019 involved the overlapping worlds of unions and politics. In Chicago, former Teamster boss John T. Coli Sr., whose ability to cut deals with City Hall and the Illinois legislature for years went virtually unchallenged, pleaded guilty in July to shaking down a television studio owner. One of his allies, State Senator Tom Cullerton, was hit with multiple embezzlement charges. In Boston, two city officials were convicted of putting the squeeze on a concert promoter on behalf of a Theatrical Employees local. In Philadelphia, an Electrical Workers business manager and seven other persons, including a city councilman, were indicted in January for embezzlement, wire fraud and bribery; a contractor and a fundraiser subsequently pleaded guilty.

The overlap of union and government interests was especially marked in the public sector. Unions, still smarting from the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling in 2018, … Read More ➡

Carpenters Benefits Manager in New Jersey Indicted for $1.5M+ Fraud

For George Laufenberg, there seemingly were no limits when it came to his pay. That’s why he’s no longer getting paid. On September 27, Laufenberg, former benefit funds administrator for certain New Jersey and New York affiliates of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, was indicted by a Newark federal grand jury on five counts related to his stealing more than $1.5 million in dues-funded plan assets. Alleged offenses include embezzling from an annuity fund, hiring a friend for a virtual no-show job, and concealing such schemes in a financial report. His attorney insists that his client is innocent. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration, plus the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

George Laufenberg, now 69, a resident of Harvey Cedars (Ocean County), N.J., had it pretty good for a while. He managed … Read More ➡

Illinois State Senator Tom Cullerton Charged in Teamster Ghost Job Scam

As the fortunes of Chicago-area former Teamster leader John T. Coli Sr. continue to crumble, an overlapping story has emerged. On August 2, Illinois Democratic State Senator Tom Cullerton was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois with 40 counts of embezzlement and one count of making a false statement following an indictment by a grand jury. For three years, Cullerton, while working as an organizer for International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 734, allegedly received nearly $275,000 in salary and benefits from the Chicago union for doing “little or no work.” Teamsters Joint Council 25, then headed by Coli, had approved the job assignment back in 2013. On August 16, Cullerton pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The indictment of Tom Cullerton (in photo) is an outgrowth of charges against John Coli Sr., who for 25 years was the dominant Teamster official in the Chicago area. … Read More ➡

Philadelphia-Area Contractor Sentenced for Theft, Bribery in IBEW Corruption Probe

For George Peltz, running a business and ripping off a union often meant the same thing. That’s why he’s no longer involved in either. On May 20, Peltz, a Philadelphia-area contractor, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to 18 months in prison and two years of probation for bribery, theft from a benefit fund, and tax fraud related to his dealings with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98. He also paid nearly $1 million in restitution. Peltz had pleaded guilty in January. The actions are part of a larger federal and state joint probe of corruption in Philadelphia that thus far has implicated a city council member, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, a couple of contractors and several Local 98 officials.

Union Corruption Update earlier had analyzed a sweeping federal indictment unsealed on January 30 against eight persons in the overlapping worlds of … Read More ➡

ILWU, Dockworkers in Oregon Sued for Roles in Time Card Scam

There are few workplaces in this country that can match the shipping terminal when it comes to wage and hour fraud – especially if the dockworkers are unionized. Back in December, Columbia Export Terminal in Portland, Oregon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and more than 150 of its members, accusing them of participating in a conspiracy to inflate their on-the-clock time in a variety of ways. The schemes allegedly cost the terminal over $5 million. The union, the suit reads, “organized and orchestrated the scheme to submit falsified time sheets.” A court spokesperson told National Legal and Policy Center yesterday afternoon that the case remains active, though a pretrial hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The longshore industry long has been plagued by union-abetted time sheet fraud. About a dozen years ago, Union Corruption Update extensively Read More ➡

Will Trump Labor Department Follow Through on Preventing Union Corruption?

The Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, as NLPC readers well know, has identified and helped prosecute much union corruption over the years. But the agency’s efforts would be even better realized if it finalized a pair of dormant rules promised two years ago. The first would establish a new financial reporting form, T-1, requiring unions with at least some private-sector members to disclose financial data for pension funds and other trusts. The second would impose financial reporting upon intermediate-level unions. Each had been proposed during the first term of the Bush presidency but shelved under President Obama. Contrary to frequent assertions from labor leaders, these regulations would not be burdensome. But they are likely to make unions more responsive to dues-paying members.

The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is a creation of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, enacted … Read More ➡

Long Island Accounting Executives Sentenced for Records Fraud

Sometimes union corruption cases merge in unexpected ways. That was the case in the sentencings of Salvatore Armao and Karen Auer, respectively, the managing partner and principal officer of a Long Island accounting firm. On February 26, Armao was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to two years of supervised release, including six months of home confinement, to making false statements related to aiding and abetting embezzlement by a union president. He also was ordered to pay $9,592 in restitution, $18,700 in asset forfeiture and a $3,000 fine. A little over a week later, on March 8, Auer was sentenced to one year of supervised release and ordered to pay $7,194 in restitution. Each had pleaded guilty last August following a joint probe by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Salvatore Armao, founder and managing partner of the Garden City (Long Island), … Read More ➡

Mob-Connected Chicago Union Boss Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

John Matassa Jr.’s biggest mistake was trying to qualify for an early retirement. He now is qualified for prison. On February 26, Matassa, former secretary-treasurer of Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to one count of embezzling $738 in union funds, far below what he actually had stolen from the union and the government. He had been indicted in May 2017 on 10 counts related to his creating a no-show union job for his wife and collecting Social Security benefits for himself. Matassa for decades has been a reputed “made man” in the Chicago mob. The plea deal calls for 15 to 21 months in prison, plus $66,500 in restitution. The actions follow a probe by the Social Security Administration and the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

John “Pudgy” Matassa Jr., … Read More ➡