Duffs of Chicago Hit with Federal Indictment

The family that has run the Chicago-based Liquor & Wines Sales Representatives, Tire, Plastic and Allied Wrkrs. Union was hit with a federal indictment on Sept. 25.  James Duff, his mother Patricia, and longtime union employee William Stratton were charged with defrauding the city of Chicago of more than $100 million in contracts intended for women- and minority-owned businesses.  These are the first indictments of major supporters of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.  The Duff family has sponsored at least 2 fundraisers for Daley, while their businesses and the union they control have contributed some $32,000 to Daleys campaigns.

In 1991, Windy City Maintenance, Inc. was certified as woman-owned business and awarded a contract to clean up after the Taste of Chicago food festival.  That year, a rival firm strongly questioned how much control Patricia Duff had over the company.  But it wasnt until 1999 that city officials decertified Windy City as woman-owned.  According to the U.S. Attny. for Northern Ill., James Duff continued to run the company throughout this period.  He ordered employees to hide files, coached Patricia on how to deceive city officials about her role in the company, and even changed the labels on office telephones from Jims line to Mrs. Duff.  Among the other Duffs affiliated with Windy City are John Duff Jr., once a director of the company and a frmr. official in the union; and Patrick Duff, the current president identified by a union official as his contact at Windy City.  In 1996, he made $254,000 at the firm.  Neither was indicted.  Also charged in the Windy City case was Terrence Dolan.

 Another firm, Remedial Environmental Manpower, Inc. (REM), sought certification as a minority-owned business in 1993.  They were turned down after city investigators concluded that union eployee William Stratton appeared to be substantially reliant on James Duff.  But the next year, city officials reversed that decision, saying they were convinced of Strattons control.  The documents that led to that reversal have since been lost.  According to the indictment, James Duff, Stratton, John Leahy, Edward Wisniewski and Starling Alexander defrauded the state wrkrs. comp. fund of more than $3 million between 1989 and 2001.  They accomplished this by classifying the employees of Windy City Labor Serv., Inc. as clerical or labor union employees at much lower premiums than those for temp. day laborers engaged in heavy-duty manual labor, which carried a higher job risk and cost 20 times more in insurance premiums.  In all, the 30 count indictment charges the Duffs and their alleged accomplices with fraud, money laundering and racketeering conspiracy. [U.S.A.O. N.D. IL, 9/25/03: Chicago Tribune, 9/26/03]