New Jersey Bosses Indicted for Kickbacks

A federal indictment unsealed Oct. 20 charges a father and son who run a local of a Nat’l Union of Healthcare & Hosp. Employees with taking $200,000 in kickbacks from a contractor hired to renovate the union’s headquarters in Newark. Victor Garcia, president of NUHHE Dist. 1199J and his son, Victor Garcia, Jr., the assistant executive director of the union’s pension fund, were charged in the Oct. 13 indictment. The local is a part of the Am. Fed’n of State, County & Municipal Employees The U.S. Atty. for N.J.  Faith S. Hochberg alleges that the two bosses accepted the money from 1994-97, in exchange for awarding the contractor $5 million in contracts for work on the building.

To retain the renovation contract, the contractor — in addition to the kickbacks — also allegedly gave the bosses jewelry and other gifts and about $25,000 in free improvements to the bosses’ residences. Jewelry included watches, rings and earrings. Home repairs included carpeting, mirrors, landscaping, roofing and driveway repaving. Both also allegedly received repairs for their cars paid for by the contractor. [USAO D.N.J., Media Release 10/20/99, N.Y. Times 10/21/99]

Ex-Nevada Boss Charged in Burglary
Billy Jo Hand, ex-boss of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 4856 in Henderson, Nev., was arrested Oct. 13 on charges stemming from a Oct. 10 burglary at the union’s office. Allegedly, the burglar cut a hole into the wall and took a TV, video recorder, computer and several checks. Las Vegas police arrested Hand at a casino. Police said he was trying to cash two forged union checks. He faces 12 felony charges. Bail was set at $51,000.

The arrest was the latest in a series of troubles for Hand. He recently resigned from his position as local president amid allegations he bounced union checks. In late 1997, Hand was indicted on conspiracy and arson charges in connection with a bitter labor dispute involving Titanium Metals Corp. The charges were later dismissed [Las Vegas Rev.-J. 10/16/99]

Boss $30,000 Fine for $237,000 Scheme
Nicholas LaForgia, ex-training director of the Nat’l Maritime Union’s Employee Pension & Welfare Plan was sentenced Oct. 18 on charges that he received about $237,000 in kickbacks and gifts. U.S. Dist. Court Judge Patti B. Saris sentenced the boss to only 3 years’ probation, with the first year served in home confinement with electronic monitoring. Saris also fined him $30,000 and required him to return the proceeds of his crime. LaForgia pled guilty in May 1999.

LaForgia’s job responsibilities included determining where NMU members would receive certain training mandated by the Coast Guard. In late 1996, he contacted the owners of Northeast Maritime Inst. in New Bedford, Mass. NMI provides the classes and training. LaForgia arranged for NMU members to attend NMI.

Shortly after NMU’s first classes, LaForgia began requesting that NMI’s owner purchase items for LaForgia. These items, which the Dep’t of Justice valued at about $237,000, were accepted by LaForgia in exchange for his continuing to send NMU members to NMI for training. Such items included jewelry, airline tickets, electronic and stereo equipment, computers and liquor. In Nov. 1998, one of the owners of NMI told LaForgia that he would no longer purchase items for LaForgia in exchange for NMU’s business. LaForgia then canceled previously scheduled classes, and no NMU members attended subsequent classes. [USAO D. Mass., Media Release 10/18/99]

Washington Boss Accused of Stealing $6,000
Tacoma police arrested ex-union boss Sharon K. Kocha Oct. 5 on charges that she embezzled nearly $6,000 from the Tacoma Food Service Union, a local chapter of the Public School Employees of Wash. In Jun. 1999, an audit by the union reportedly found that she embezzled at least $5,818 from TFSU. Kocha allegedly took the money by writing 27 checks to herself, her personal creditors and for cash from Jun. 1998 to Apr. 1999. TFSU reportedly determined none of the checks were for reimbursements.

When union bosses confronted Kocha, she said she would refund the money. A police report said that after Kocha said she would put money into TFSU’s account, $3,000 was deposited  on Jun. 9. Bosses assumed the deposit was made by Kocha, but there was no documentation that she did. When she was confronted again, she said she thought she only owed “another $700.” TFSU pursued criminal charges after members asked them to do so in a vote on Sep. 9. Kocha pled not guilty Oct. 6 and was released on $10,000 bail. [News Trib. 10/8/99]

“Let me explain [why Al Gore got the AFL-CIO endorsement]… It’s real simple. The unions need the Justice Department intact, with Al Gore running it. Because it has become the Obstruction of Justice Department. There are a bunch of trials involving union officials and corruption that have been put off or dismissed…because the corrupt Justice Department…

[W]hat did Al Gore have to do to get this endorsement? Real simple: He had to promise John Sweeney that the Justice Department under his administration would no longer pursue any of these charges against corrupt union officials, like Arthur Coia, Terry McAuliffe — the Clinton’s home financier and other things… If somebody else gets hold of that Justice Department — especially a Republican administration — then all these cases are likely to be tried and a lot of people are going to be found guilty…

[I]t’s all about making sure these union guys don’t get convicted of anything…and Gore had to promise that the Justice Department would remain business-as-usual under his leadership… And that’s why people are selling their souls, because [they have] about been caught, the Justice Department has prevented them from being nailed, and they think a Gore Justice Department will continue that business-as-usual.”

– Radio Legend Rush Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Oct. 13, 1999, 12:09 EST.