D.C. Probe Charges Fourth Boss with Embezzlement

James E. Cole, the general secretary of the Int’l Ass’n of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers, was secretly indicted last month by a federal grand jury for union embezzlement. The 18-count indictment was unsealed Jan. 3 in U.S. Dist. Court in Wash., D.C. Cole is the fourth BSOIW boss to face charges in a FBI probe involving allegations of corruption within the BSOIW hierarchy and D.C. police force. The others have pled guilty.

The indictment alleges that starting in 1992, Cole and others cheated the union by using its money to pay for personal outings and services from restaurants, hotels and golf courses. It accuses Cole of mail fraud, embezzlement, making false statements and concealment. Cole allegedly used union credit cards and other accounts to benefit himself, his family and friends. For example, he allegedly used  more that $10,000 for a Scotland vacation, a high school reunion trip, and anniversary flowers for his wife.  Further, he allegedly failed to report nearly $20,000 in disbursements to BSOIW president Jake West in 1996-98. West has not been charged.

Cole was the union’s treasurer from 1985 until 1998, when he became secretary.  Other bosses charged in the probe are Darrel E. Shelton, a former general organizer, who pleaded guilty to embezzling as much as $120,000; Fred G. Summers, the former executive director of organizing, who admitted embezzling more than $50,000; and Michael J. Brennan, the ex-head of the Iron Workers Political Action League, who pleaded guilty to charges involving the theft of $7,000 .[Wash. Post 1/4/01]