Former Chicago Teamster President Pleads Guilty to Role in Election Rigging; Three Others Convicted

TruckersConsidering what lies ahead, Robert Walston is probably glad just to get this part of his legal troubles behind him. The former president of Chicago’s International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 743 had been forced out of his position in August 2007 in the wake of his alleged role in an election-rigging scheme three years earlier. This past March 23, Walston pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, theft from a labor organization, and property embezzlement. He had been named the previous March as a co-conspirator in a superseding indictment. More recently, three of his co-conspirators were found guilty following a three-week trial. 

Walston, 65, during 2001-07 headed one of the largest Teamsters locals in the country, representing some 12,000 warehouse, service and other employees in the Chicago area. But in 2004 he and allies faced re-election. And that would prove to be his downfall. He, recording secretary (and later secretary-treasurer) Richard Lopez and several other individuals allegedly diverted mail-in ballots from Local 743 members they deemed likely to vote for candidates on the opposing New Leadership slate. After an investigation and a civil suit by the Department of Labor, a federal judge in July 2007 ordered a replacement election to take place by the end of the year. This time Richard Berg and his New Leadership slate won. Lopez, Walston’s hand-picked successor, by then had stepped down after a brief tenure. He would be indicted himself. This May 1, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Lopez, former comptroller Thaddeus Bania and ex-organizer David Rodriguez. Walston, already having pled guilty, testified for the prosecution. Two former union business agents, Mark Jones and Cassandra Mosely, also had pleaded guilty.

Walston has plenty else to worry about these days. In January he was indicted on conspiracy and drug trafficking charges related to his role as a bagman in an attempted 2007 cocaine deal in Texas. He and a co-conspirator, Victor Matus, were arrested that June on charges of buying 80 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute. Walston is claiming the purpose of his visits to Texas was to buy trucks. Even if he’s telling the truth, his career as a Teamster is in the past. (OLMS, 4/21/09; PRNewswire, 5/1/09).