Charles “Chuck” Crawley has just about run out of options. On June 27, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court unanimously rejected the appeal of the conviction and sentencing of Crawley, formerly president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 988 in Houston. Crawley in May 2007 had received a 78-month prison sentence and an order to pay $121,478 in restitution and penalties following his jury conviction for election fraud, mail fraud and embezzlement. He’d served as head of the local from 1997 until his removal by Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa in October 2003. The following year he was permanently barred from the local.
The most serious charges revolved around election fraud. Back in 2002, Crawley had devised a re-election scheme in which he placed hundreds of ballots marked in his favor into false return envelopes corresponding to members not likely to vote and further increased his vote count by generating phony ballots through the union’s computer. Additionally, he received a $20,000 cash kickback from a local telephone-installation contractor.
Crawley’s appeal rested on grounds that the lower court had miscalculated his pension and salary in order to heighten the severity of his offense and the basis of mandating restitution. A pre-sentence investigation determined that Crawley’s offenses qualified as “Level 6” under federal sentencing guidelines. Moreover, the report said, Crawley had incurred an intended loss of slightly over $1 million, an amount reflecting full salary and benefits plus the $20,000 kickback. Crawley had maintained that the dollar loss should only take into account the kickback. The court rejected this view, noting that the indictment stated Crawley had “intended to obtain Local 988 property consisting of a designated salary for the President of Local 988 and associated benefits for the period of January 2003 until January 2006.”
Crawley’s attorney, Richard Kuniansky, thinks the court made a bad decision. He argued that his client should have received some credit for the work he did with the union, and that it was unfair to take away years of salary and pension. “[Local 988] will get paid back even though they had a president. They’re having a windfall,” he said. As for Crawley, he’s serving time in the Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex in Louisiana and will be eligible for release in August 2012. (Teamsters for a Democratic Union, 7/2/08).