Appellate Circuit

Stealing Work from Your Own Members. That’s Union Power.

Eleven union officials were indicted by the Feds Thursday for allegedly steering contracts away from the very unions they are supposed to help in a bribery and bid-rigging scheme.

Feds indict 11 construction union officials in bribery scheme

Originally Published: 1 Oct., 2020 | Republished by LIT; 5 October, 2020

The head of the powerful New York State Buildings & Construction Trades Council and 10 other union officials were indicted by the feds Thursday for allegedly steering contracts away from the very unions they are supposed to help in a bribery and bid-rigging scheme.

The indictment was brought against former and current members of Local 638, a pipe-fitting union that does work on Long Island and in the city, according to the court papers.

The alleged ringleader of the scheme, James Cahill, is also the president of the Trade Council, which counts some 200,000 construction workers as members, prosecutors said.

As part of the scheme, Cahill and his alleged cohorts installed cronies into leadership positions at Local 638 so they could siphon about $100,000 in bribes, the indictment states.

They also accepted unrepaid loans of food, drinks and even an ice machine as part of the scheme, prosecutors said.

Cahill and the union leadership then purposefully harmed their members by passing on construction bids that could have gone to their unions, according to prosecutors.

They accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from a “non-union employer in the plumbing business,” identified as “Employer-1,” in exchange for giving up the bids, according to court papers.

The suspects are accused of “acquiescing in Employer-1’s bidding and performing of construction work with non-union labor for plumbing and pipe fitting projects that would otherwise have potentially been awarded to companies whose employees were represented by Local 638 or Local 200,” the complaint states.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini, whose office partnered with federal prosecutors in the investigation, blasted the “greedy” officials in a statement.

“As alleged in today’s indictment, these union officials – who purported to be the ones looking out for workers and their rights – were in fact engaged in an enterprise of corruption at the expense of the hardworking men and women they claimed to represent,” Sini said.

Nine of the defendants are charged with racketeering — and all 11 face honest services fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to violate the Taft-Hartley Act charges.

Cahill and the other defendants all pleaded not guilty at their phone-conference arraignments Thursday afternoon.

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