There’s nothing wrong with hiring a family member for a job, provided the job actually exists and all payments are voluntary. International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 apparently doesn’t think much of that principle. Two men affiliated with the Springfield, New Jersey union were charged in late July with putting the daughter of a union member on the payroll for no-show work on an unnamed office tower in Jersey City. Indicted were Craig Wask, a retired local business agent, and Francis Impeciati, president of a Bangor, Pa.-based steel construction contractor, Blue Ridge Erectors, Inc. Wask, 60, was arrested at his home in Montvale, N.J.; Impeciati, 58, surrendered in court. Both pled not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark. A third person, a union member and lead project engineer identified only as “G.H.,” was cited as a participant but not formally charged with any offense.
The indictment states that G.H. put a close relative, most likely his daughter, on the Blue Ridge payroll beginning in 2001 solely for the purpose of serving as a conduit for bribes. Prosecutors allege that some $90,000 in payroll checks for a nonexistent job changed hands. Wask and the unnamed engineer then would cash the checks and split the proceeds. As a quid pro quo, Wask allegedly ignored the union’s collective bargaining agreement, allowing Blue Ridge to hire nonunion workers to operate welding machines at the construction site. Wask, also a member of the Bergen County Building, Construction and Trades Council, claims he was unaware of the scheme. “He doesn’t know anything about this,” said Wask’s attorney, James Paluto, of Hackensack. “They’ve been looking into the project for years. We don’t feel it’s a viable case.” The other defendant, Francis Impeciati, likewise claims he’s done no wrong. “Mr. Impeciati adamantly maintains his innocence of these charges and looks forward to clearing his name at trial,” said his lawyer, John Whipple, of Chatham, N.J.
The indictments are part of a larger ongoing probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office into the dealings of Local 825. That includes relationships with contractors who built the Goldman, Sachs building, a 42-story office tower on the Jersey City waterfront that is now the tallest building in New Jersey, plus several other office buildings. Two months earlier, as reported in these pages, Union County, N.J., prosecutors brought forth labor racketeering charges against three persons, two of them Local 825 associates, over their alleged ties to the Lucchese crime family. “We probably over the past 10 months have had 12 to 15 different subpoenas involving different companies,” said Kenneth Campbell, a local business manager. All of this suggests the probe has much unfinished work ahead. (Newark Star-Ledger, 8/1/07).