Federal Court Upholds Convictions of Hawaii Boss, Daughter

afscme-logoFathers have a lot to teach their offspring, and unfortunately, that includes the finer points of stealing from a labor union. Escaping detection may be easy for a while, but if and when caught, the culprits aren’t likely to come up with too many convincing alibis. On June 11, a federal appeals court in Hawaii belatedly upheld mail fraud, money-laundering and embezzlement convictions of a powerful state labor chieftain and his daughter. Gary Rodrigues, former state director of the United Public Workers, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had been sentenced in 2003 to more than five years in prison following his conviction the previous fall. His daughter, Robin Rodrigues Sabatini, received a sentence of three years and 10 months for helping her father defraud the union through her consulting firms. Each had been free while appealing their convictions.


Prosecutors alleged that Rodrigues, starting in 1992, had negotiated medical and dental contracts with “consulting” fees he’d taken out of union funds and then funneled to his daughter’s two companies, Four Winds RSK Inc. and Aulii Inc. Rodrigues knew the checks were going for nonexistent work and would be deposited in the two company accounts. In all, Rodrigues was found guilty on 101 charges, Sabatini on 95. While U.S. District Judge David Ezra did not add time to the defendants’ existing sentences, he did order a “limited remand” to determine if he would have imposed the same sentences knowing existing sentencing guidelines were advisory, not mandatory. He also ordered Rodrigues and his daughter to pay a combined $378,000 in restitution, imposing an additional $50,000 fine on the father.

The 12,000-member United Public Workers has been under local control after a two-year period during which its AFSCME parent had taken over operations in December 2002. Rodrigues, of course, long has been out of the union. He and Sabatini aren’t the only father-daughter pair making news for labor corruption lately. This April, a federal grand jury indicted a family of three, plus a pair of associates, for embezzling more than $250,000 from an Ocean County, N.J.-based public-sector employees’ union. The two leaders of the ring, the father, August Vergallito, and his daughter, Kimberly Vergallito, stand accused of check forgery and other offenses committed during 1999-2006. Sometimes family lessons have to come from outside sources. (Associated Press, 6/12/07).