Morgenthau Indicts Powerful New York Boss, Five Others

Expelled AFSCME Local 372 boss and prominent N.Y.C. politico, Charles Hughes, was indicted May 5 along with five others including son Martin Hughes and son-in-law James Rose. The crusading Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau charged the six with stealing over $2.7 million from union coffers. Now nine bosses of the scandal-ridden AFSCME Dist. Council 37 have been indicted in the current corruption wave. Three others have pled guilty.

Hughes reportedly embezzled $100,000 for a trip for himself and 14 friends to Egypt, Israel, Prague, Paris and London. He allegedly charged $340,000 on the local’s credit card for personal expenses, including some at Victoria’s Secret. He reportedly paid $97,000 to friends living in his home-state of Ga. for no-show union jobs; prosecutors declined to connect the payments to Hughes’ new $400,000 home in Millin, Ga. The indictment also stated that Hughes stole $700,000 in unearned overtime pay, $590,000 in unauthorized pay for attending board meetings and $163,000 in undocumented cash withdrawals.

Hughes’ son and son-in-law, with bosses Joseph Alfano and Richard Louis, reportedly charged over $670,000 on the local’s credit card for personal items including $78,000 for Super Bowl tickets, $10,000 for topless clubs and $5,250 for 1996 NCAA Final Four tickets.

“These defendants treated the Local 372 treasury as their own private candy store,” stated Morgenthau. “Funds contributed by hard-working municipal employees were looted for the defendants’ personal benefit to support a life style no union member could afford.”

Hughes faces 25 years in prison. He pled not guilty. His attorney, Gerald Shargel, argues that the money can’t be considered stolen because his union’s board approved the spending. But prosecutors said the payments weren’t properly approved; rather Hughes and Local 372’s ex-treasurer, Mildred Stephens, falsified records to show that the payments had been approved. Stephens was indicted on charges of falsifying records. Reportedly, Hughes put the 25,000-member local $10 million in debt despite taking an average of $910 in annual dues per member. Morgenthau asserts that more money is missing and vowed to continue investigating the local and its vendors.

Hughes ran his local for 27 years. He was a close supporter of every incumbent mayor for decades and was rewarded with access and appointments. He endorsed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for reelection, although he had previously supported ex-Mayor David Dinkins, who appointed him chairman of the city’s Equal Employment Practices Commission. In 1997, Hughes held a fundraiser for Giuliani’s reelection at his home and appeared in a Giuliani TV commercial. [N.Y. Times & Newsday 5/6/99]