America’s maritime officers are seafarers, working the decks, engine rooms and other sections of U.S.-flagged commercial and military vessels. They sail the world’s oceans, the Great Lakes and inland waters. But federal prosecutors right now are concerned about certain things the people who run their 4,000-member union may have done on land. On September 14, officials from the Justice and Labor Departments announced the unsealing of a 13-count indictment against Michael McKay, 58, national president of the American Maritime Officers (AMO), his brother, Robert McKay, 55, AMO’s national secretary-treasurer, and two other men. Charges include embezzlement, mail fraud, graft, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and falsification of records.
The government charged that the McKays, along with union employees Phillip Ciccarelli, 64, and James Lynch, 55, embezzled funds from union benefit plans to pay for personal expenses such as fine china, cigars, hockey games and personal boat repairs, not to mention free housing for themselves, family members and friends at union national headquarters in Dania Beach, Fla. More seriously, the McKays allegedly conspired in 1993 and 1996 to rig union elections, and in 1995 and 1999 to rig constitutional referenda, by stuffing ballot boxes and destroying ballots cast for their opponents. Michael McKay succeeded his father, Raymond, the union’s longtime president, following a controversial election in 1993 after the elder McKay’s death.
The McKays pleaded not guilty during an appearance before a federal district judge in Fort Lauderdale, and were released on $500,000 bond. They, along with Ciccarelli and Lynch, face multiple-year sentences if convicted. The charges culminate a five-year investigation. (HT Media Ltd., 9/14; Associated Press, 9/14).