The curtain closed for the old regime of the American Maritime Officers (AMO) in a Ft. Lauderdale federal courtroom on March 29. Michael McKay, president of the 4,000-member Dania Beach, Fla.-based union, convicted on racketeering conspiracy and fraud charges in early January after a four-week trial, received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence. His younger brother, Robert, the union’s secretary-treasurer, also convicted by a jury, got 15 months for lesser offenses. “This case ultimately boils down to three words – ‘violation of trust,’” said U.S. District Judge James Cohn. “Ultimately, it was union members and plan participants who were the victims.”
Prosecutors had accused the McKays of running the union as a slush fund, diverting member benefits toward their personal use. Additionally, they said, Robert McKay rigged union elections and made illegal campaign contributions to Broward County office-seekers from benefit funds. The prosecution’s star witness, David Merriken, who had been the union’s benefits manager during the late 90s, proved crucial to securing convictions. Sentencing is now scheduled for April 30. Under federal law, the McKay brothers will be barred from holding union-related office for 13 years after their release from prison. In the meantime, they will be required to make restitution. Michael McKay owes $271,040; Robert McKay, $258,443. The union since has named former Executive Vice President Thomas Bethel as acting president. (Sun-Sentinel.com, 3/29/07).