Ex-Union Insurance Director Pleads Guilty to Racketeering in Texas Federal Court

Ralph John Dennis, the frmr. Director of the United Transportation Union (UTU) Insurance Association, pled guilty on Oct. 2 to labor racketeering conspiracy. Dennis now becomes disqualified by law from employment with labor organizations or employee benefit plans or from service as a labor relations consultant for a period of 13 years after the completion of any term of imprisonment resulting from this conviction. Dennis also will forfeit to the United States $25,000, which represents the value of the funds he personally derived from the racketeering activity.

During Dennis’s rearraignment hearing before U. S. District Judge Sim Lake, Dennis admitted to using his position with the UTU to solicit and collect cash payments and other things of value on behalf of UTU Presidents Byron Boyd and Charles Little from attorneys doing business with the union over a period of over four years beginning in 1999 for his own benefit and for other UTU officials.

Dennis was indicted by a grand jury on Sept. 12, along with current UTU president, Boyd, ex-UTU president Little, and special assistant to Boyd, John R. Rookard. All four were charged with conspiring to violate federal mail fraud and wire fraud statutes, and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering through commercial state bribery, by using their positions of authority as officers and employees of the UTU to solicit and collect cash payments and other things of value from attorneys doing business with the union.

Dennis told U.S. District Judge Sim Lake that he had been directed by Byron Boyd and Charles Little to travel at union expense around the United States to personally solicit cash from designated legal counsel (DLC) to be used for campaigns and unspecified special projects. During the conspiracy, Dennis personally benefited approximately $25,000 and has agreed to forfeit an equal amount to the Government.

Dennis told the court that he handled most of the contacts with the DLC East of the Mississippi River while contacts with the DLC West of the Mississippi River were handled by Rookard. During Little’s 1999 campaign for president, Dennis handed out cash collected from various DLC to other union officials who then wrote checks in the same amount toward Little’s campaign. Dennis collected over $100,000 in cash payments from nine separate attorneys. Dennis told the court he had been directed by Little and Boyd to collect cash from various DLC for many different purposes, including to cover expenses relating to the Little’s 1999 presidential campaign; a retirement gift for Little; union meeting expenses; hotel expenses incurred by Little and Boyd; a tractor Little wanted to purchase for his Texas residence; rental expenses for an apartment in Cleveland, Ohio used by Dennis and his co-defendant, Rookard; furnishings for two apartments in Cleveland, Ohio, one used by Boyd and another used by Dennis and Rookard; and a computer provided by a DLC for use by Boyd for Boyd’s presidential campaign.

Dennis admitted to personally handling a transaction in which one West Coast attorney paid $30,000 to Byron Boyd in exchange for a designation as a DLC, and was aware of another transaction in which an East Coast attorney paid $30,000 to Byron Boyd in exchange for a designation as a DLC by Little. Dennis personally handled a transaction on behalf of Boyd, during which Dennis collected $10,000 cash from a Florida attorney who hoped to receive a designation as a DLC from Boyd.

Dennis admitted that once the criminal investigation in Houston became known, Boyd directed him to visit various DLC and tell them to keep their mouths shut about prior cash payments to Boyd. One DLC agreed to destroy hotel records relating to hotel stays by Little and Boyd which the DLC paid for. The DLC had the record destroyed in Dennis’ presence.

Another frmr. UTU official, Neil F. Babineaux, campaign manager for Little’s 1995 presidential election, pled guilty to contempt of court September 5, 2003, before U.S. District Judge Nancy F. Atlas. Babineaux admitted to making false statements before the grand jury in October 2001 that was investigating the UTU. Babineaux admitted to the court that he solicited and collected cash payments from various DLC at the direction of Charlie Little during the period leading up to the election and after the election of Charlie Little as UTU president at the UTU convention in July 1995. Babineaux was sentenced the same day, September 5, to two years probation, six months home confinement, and fined $3,000. Boyd and Rookard will continue in their positions pending the outcome of the criminal charges. [U.S.A.O. S.D. TX, 10/2/03]