U.S. Attny. Michael Shelby announced the indictment on Sept. 12 of Byron A. Boyd, Jr., current pres. of the United Transportation Union, ret. pres. Charles L. Little, John R. Rookard, Boyds asst., and Ralph John Dennis, the UTUs former insurance director, with racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and commercial bribery. The four are charged with using their positions of authority as officers and employees of the United Transportation Union to solicit and collect cash payments and other things of value from attorneys doing business with the union over a period of 7 years beginning in 1995.
Every union member has the right to expect that his or her elected leaders will conduct themselves honestly, and with the best interests of the union membership at heart. We cannot and will not tolerate union officials who abuse their positions of trust for personal gain, said Shelby, U.S. Attny. for the Sou. Dist. of Texas. All 4 have pled not guilty.
Boyd has held the position of UTU president since Littles resignation in February 2001. Little was elected as union president in 1995 with Boyd serving as Assistant President. Ralph Dennis was Director of Insurance for the UTU Insurance Association until his resignation from the union this past July.
According to the indictment, the 4 officials devised a scheme to defraud the UTU membership by soliciting over $477,000 in cash from lawyers in Houston and around the U.S. performing services for union members as designated legal counsel. Under the Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) program, about 50 lawyers specialize in representing union rail employees whose job injuries result in claims against their employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA was enacted into law by Congress in 1908 to specifically address the dangers faced by rail employees and their need to seek compensation for injuries. Unlike state workers compensation programs, FELA places no restrictions on the types of damages that may be recovered by rail employees and no monetary limits upon the size of recoveries.
As union president, Little and Boyd had unilateral control over the appointment and removal of DLC lawyers. By demanding thousands of dollars in secret cash contributions for Littles and Boyds presidential campaigns, by soliciting cash from lawyers in exchange for their being made DLC of the UTU and remaining so, the 4 allegedly committed acts of fraud, bribery and racketeering. They also allegedly committed mail fraud by publicizing election rules that barred DLC from involvement in union politics and elections.
The investigation was initiated in 1999 by agents of the FBI and the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the DOLs Ofc. of Inspector General. The investigation continues. [U.S.A.O. S.D. TX, 9/15/03: Houston Chronicle, 9/16/03]