Federal Sting Nabs Corrupt Boss

A Chicago Teamsters boss was indicted Sep. 17 for taking $16,000 in bribes from a mole of an federal investigation called Operation Silver Shovel. The mole, John Christopher, attempted to bribe the boss to overlook his financial obligations to Local 786. The local’s president from 1982-97, Walter Hoff, allegedly accepted two payoffs. Hoff is the 17th defendant charged in the ongoing investigation, but the first defendant named in 10 months, and the first union figure implicated in what has been mostly a public corruption probe.

“Labor union officials are supposed to bargain with employers at arm’s length, not with their hands in each other’s pockets,” said U.S. Atty. Scott Lassar. “The defendant allegedly placed his own financial interest ahead of his
duty to protect the interests of the workers whom he represented.”

Hoff is charged with 9 counts of fraud, labor racketeering and tax evasion. Prosecutors said that one payoff came in May 1994 after Christopher walked into Hoff’s office, as the union president held up a sign that said “don’t talk.” As Christopher signed documents, Hoff lifted his hand and rubbed his fingers together, allegedly indicating that he wanted a payoff and silently $8,000 in cash was handed over. In return for the bribes, Hoff reportedly made it look like Christopher’s companies were unionized in a way that enabled him to qualify for certain contracts, while avoiding over $70,000 in employee benefit payments. [Chicago Tribune 9/18/98]