Local 91 of the Laborers International Union of North America may be the embodiment of the expression, “the gift that keeps on giving.” Though the last of more than a dozen officials, members and associates of the Niagara Falls, N.Y. union arrested and indicted in 2002 for extortion, assault and property destruction have pleaded guilty, a new, less bombastic local-related case has cropped up. On July 3, a federal grand jury indicted a local dentist, Scott Geise, for filing nine false claims totaling $6,970. Prosecutors allege that Dr. Geise, owner of a family dental practice in nearby Newfane, during September 2002-November 2006 had assisted another person in submitting fraudulent benefit claims to the Laborers Local 91 Welfare Fund and to insurers.
The case grew out of the massive federal racketeering probe of Local 91 leadership detailing an extensive pattern of violence or threats of violence against nonunion members and vandalism against nonunion construction projects in Niagara County. Based on information provided in plea bargaining, County Sheriff Thomas Beilein conducted an investigation, aided by the U.S. Department of Labor, the FBI and the IRS. Geise eventually turned himself in to face an indictment. While such action might signify an eventual guilty plea, his attorneys believe otherwise. Joel L. Daniels and George V.C. Muscato maintain their client is innocent, accusing the Justice Department of relying on “the word of an admitted union embezzler and cheat.” The case is a blow to residents of Newfane, a community of nearly 10,000 people in Niagara County. Dr. Geise grew up as well as practiced there. In 2001, he converted an old appliance store into his current office, which triggered an upgrading of the immediate surrounding area. (Buffalo News, 7/6/07).