Two Local 372 Bosses Sentenced; Hughes Gets 3 to 9

N.Y. Justice William Leibovitz June 5 sentenced Charles Hughes, head of Am. Fed’n of State, County & Mun. Employees Local 372 for thirty years, to three to nine years in prison for stealing over $2 million from the local of school cafeteria workers and crossing guards. Hughes is the most senior boss to pled guilty in Manhattan D.A. Robert M. Morgenthau’s on-going union corruption probe of AFSCME Dist. Council 37, in which more than thirty have been criminally charged and more than twenty have pled guilty.

“What is clear is the defendant stole the union money relentlessly. His greed is breathtaking,” said Leibovitz.  He also lambasted Hughes’ lavish lifestyle:  “He stole this money knowingly and intentionally,” adding that Hughes, financed his theft by charging his members high dues that “likely came out of their food and rent money.” Local 372 represented the lowest-paid workers on N.Y.C.’s payroll, making $20,000 or less a year.  Asst. D.A. Jane Tully said that despite the modest salaries, members paid “sky-high” monthly union dues of $56.11 ($673.32 annually).

Hughes took $340,000 for his personal credit card and $100,000 for a trip he and 14 relatives and friends took to Egypt, Israel, Prague, Paris and London. He spent $97,000 on no-show jobs for friends in Millen, Ga., and stole $1.29 million in unearned and unauthorized pay that went, in part, for his Ga. retirement mansion.

In an effort to keep the local afloat, Hughes at one point arranged to borrow $5 million from the Amalgamated Bank of N.Y. (which is owned by the  Union of Needletrades, Indus. & Textile Employees (UNITE)) while his local was over $9 million in debt and promised bank officials to raise dues by $5 monthly to cover the loan.

Leibovitz  dismissed a plea from Hughes’ attorney Sarita Kedia that Hughes’ medical diagnosis of Pick’s Disease, a form of frontal lobe dementia, was an “extenuating circumstance.”

Minutes after Hughes was led away, ex-Local 372 treasurer, Mildred Stephens, sentenced to 5 years probation for helping Hughes steal the money. Aside from taking union funded vacations, Stevens reportedly did not profit from her crimes. [N.Y. Times, Newsday, Daily News 6/7/00]

Local 376 Boss Gets 2 to 6 Years
Ex-boss of AFSCME Local 376, Joseph DeCanio, was sentenced June 7 to two to six years in prison for stealing at least $50,000 from the union, which is part of N.Y.C’s corrupt DC37. He was also ordered pay $ 65,000 in restitution. The sentence was part of a guilty plea with the Manhattan D.A.’s Office in which he had agreed to cooperate.  On Nov. 20, 1998, DeCanio was the first DC37 boss publicly charged in the on-going union corruption probe. In addition to a theft probe, DeCanio was reportedly cooperating in the investigation into the rigging of a DC37’s 1996-97 contract ratification vote.

DeCanio’s theft was part the DC37 “Turkey Caper.” DeCanio and other DC37 bosses have admitted they bought at inflated prices the holiday turkeys that are traditionally distributed free to DC37’s members. The difference between the distributor’s real cost and the price paid was then shared among the distributor and the union bosses as part of an annual kickback scheme, according to prosecutors. [Newsday 6/8/00]