The Federal Bureau of Investigation indicted 10 union members this week for allegedly perpetrating acts of violence on their community, including burning down a church in 2012.
“While unions have the right to legally advocate on behalf of their members, my office will not tolerate the conduct of those who use violence to further union goals,” said United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. “Union officials and members who commit arson, destroy property, use threats of physical harm, and engage in other acts of violence to extort victims on behalf of their union need to be criminally prosecuted.”
Law enforcement officials arrested 10 members of Philadelphia’s Ironworkers Local 401 and charged them with participating in “a conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property, and assault” in an attempt to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers, the FBI said Tuesday in a press release.
“Specifically, the indictment charges RICO conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, three counts of arson, two counts of use of fire to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit arson,” it continued. “Eight of the 10 individuals named in the indictment are charged with conspiring to use Ironworkers Local 401 as an enterprise to commit criminal acts.”
The FBI indictment goes on to list the dark details of the union plot.
The 10 defendants had a network of co-conspirators who helped them sniff out construction jobs where the work was being done by non-union laborers, according to the indictment.
Business agents would then approach construction foremen at those sites and “imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property or other criminal acts unless union members were hired,” it adds.
The scheme depended on the defendants’ alleged reputation for “violence and sabotage,” which was apparently established in the community a long time ago. Backed by fear of retribution, the defendants were able to strong arm contractors into hiring union members.
The indictment alleges that the defendants established “goon” squads, made up almost entirely of union workers, to “commit assaults, arsons, and destruction of property.”
One squad even referred to itself as “The Helpful Union Guys,” or “THUG” for short.
In 2010, one of the defendants and three associates approached non-union laborer outside of a mall and attacked them with baseball bats, the indictment said.
In December 2012, when the contractor responsible for the Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia refused to hire union workers, three defendants went to the construction site and proceeded to cut steel beams and bolts, it adds.
The defendants also reportedly set fire to a crane at the work site.
Further, in July 2013, two defendants “set up a picket line and threatened the contractor of an apartment complex under construction at 31st and Spring Garden Streets if he did not hire Local 401 members,” the indictment claims. The “contractor relinquished his profits and turned the job over to a union-affiliated contractor as a result of the threats.”
Of the eight persons charged with racketeering conspiracy, Joseph Dougherty, 72, of Philadelphia, worked as the financial secretary and business manager of Local 401.
The FBI stressed that the alleged intimidation and destruction of property was done for union laborers who would have “performed no function” for the groups being intimidated.
“The strong-arm tactics we have seen in this case are outrageous and brazen—and an unfortunate blow to the worthy intentions of unionism,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko. “The fight for workers’ rights may sometimes call for tough tactics, but violence, intimidation, arson, and sabotage are crimes which won’t be tolerated. This investigation has been wide-ranging, but it is far from over. Now that this indictment has been unsealed, we expect to hear from more victims and will aggressively pursue all other leads we receive.”
Nine other men were indicted with Dougherty, including Edward Sweeney, 55, of Philadelphia; Francis Sean O’Donnell, 43, of Warminster, Pa.; Christopher Prophet, 43, of Richboro, Pa.; William O’Donnell, 61, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; union members James Walsh, 49; William Gillin, 42; Richard Ritchie, 44; Daniel Hennigar, 53; and Greg Sullivan, 49, all of Philadelphia.
“If convicted of all charges, defendants Dougherty, Sweeney, Walsh, and Gillin each face a mandatory minimum term of 35 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 130 years; defendant Hennigar faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendant Sullivan faces a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendants Prophet and Ritchie face a statutory maximum of up to 40 years in prison; defendants Francis and William O’Donnell each face a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison,” the FBI said.
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