Florida Boss Charged with Extortion & Drug Crimes

A federal grand jury in Ft. Lauderdale indicted ex-president of Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 390, Clarence Lark, as well as his brother-in-law, and seven other individuals on drug smuggling, extortion, racketeering, conspiracy, and other charges. The 43-count indictment, unsealed Oct. 31, included charges that Lark and brother-in-law Larry Crenshaw were involved in a racketeering and smuggling operation that since 1985 imported more than 3,500 kilograms of cocaine and 39,000 kilograms of marijuana through Miami’s Port Everglades, where Local 390 operates. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of about $11 million, real estate, vehicles, and other property.

Additionally, Lark and Crenshaw allegedly extorted money from union members who were forced to pay kickbacks to get work with Star’s Choice, a company the men allegedly founded using drug profits, which provided transportation and other services to the movie and TV production industry in South Florida. Further, the two were charged with “abusing their union responsibilities.”

In 1996, Lark was barred in by IBT’s Independent Review Bd. from holding a paid or unpaid office within the Teamsters. He ran the local since 1979. Despite the ban, Lark reportedly continued to participate in managing the local and was a silent partner in Star’s Choice. He thus controlled the union transportation captains who were responsible for renting the vehicles, according to the indictment, which added that he and Crenshaw demanded cash payments “in order to receive choice work assignments.”

“What makes this conduct so dangerous, so ominous, is that the defendants were able to dominate one of the major economic arteries that feeds South Florida….In doing so, [they] abused their union responsibilities, turning the union into a racketeering operation,” said U.S. Attorney Guy A. Lewis. “They violated their duties of honesty and trust owed to the hard-working men and women, the rank and file dues-paying members, all to just line their own pockets.”

Also charged were Curtis Newton, a member of the Int’l Longshoreman’s Ass’n, who allegedly introduced Lark to a worker involved in the smuggling operation, and Keith Lampkin and Lawrence Seymore, members of Local 390, who prosecutors said “used their positions to facilitate the removal of controlled substances.” Further, the indictment named as a defendant Ricardo McHorne, an ILA member who allegedly distributed some of the drugs. Also charged were John Gallo, a California producer of pornographic materials, who allegedly laundered more than $1 million in narcotics proceeds, and Charlie Hall, who reportedly performed various construction projects to conceal the source of the allegedly illegal funds. [BNA 11/13/00; USA Today 11/7/00]

Las Vegas Trustee Replaced
Jim Wilkerson, who in Apr. 2000 was brought in by the Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters to straighten out troubled Las Vegas-based IBT Local 631, was replaced Nov. 6 for unknown reasons by Ed Jacobson. Wilkerson, a Teamster in Southern Nevada and ex-president of Local 14, was brought out of retirement by IBT boss James P. Hoffa when Local 631 was taken into emergency trusteeship following allegations of improprieties.

Reportedly, an investigation of Local 631 allegedly uncovered “severe mismanagement” that has negatively affected members of the union. Hoffa is reported to have stated that he was committed to restoring Local 631 to the members and “ending any fraud and abuse within the Teamsters union.” Alleged improprieties cited by Hoffa included: 1) failing to file grievances on behalf of members and negotiating substandard agreements with employers; 2) not enforcing collective bargaining agreements; and 3) inadequately representing members because of the inexperience of Local 631 officers and representatives. [L.V. Rev.-J. 11/8/00; Nev. Employment Law Letter 5/00]