President of NYC Bus Drivers Union Pleads Guilty to Extortion

school busAmalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, formerly a ward of the Genovese crime family, apparently hasn’t been the only union adept at shaking down New York City bus companies. For more than a decade and a half, the leadership of Local 91 of the United Craft and Industrial Workers Union also were proficient in this skill. Those days, however, have come to an end. On July 29, Warren Annunziata, formerly Local 91 president and currently its pension fund administrator, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to extorting more than a half-million dollars from bus companies that provide transportation to public school students in the city and parts of neighboring Westchester County. His sentencing, originally set for October 28, was moved back to January 11, 2011. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. 

United Craft and Industrial Workers Local 91 represents about 2,000 bus drivers, escorts and other employees of firms busing students to area public schools. It’s also a union that has amassed more than $85 million in pension and other assets. Annunziata, now 75, a resident of Roslyn Heights, Long Island, had been responsible for building part of that endowment. An FBI investigation concluded that during approximately 1992-2009 he used his position(s) as a top union official to intimidate executives of union bus companies into providing him with more than $500,000 in payoffs. Annunziata threatened economic harm against those who expressed reluctance to “contribute.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced his indictment on February 25, 2010 following his home arrest by Department of Labor agents. The two-count indictment read in part:

From at least in or about 1992, up to and including in or about 2009, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, Warren Joseph Annunziata, the defendant, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly did commit and attempt to commit extortion…which consent was induced by the wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear, and thereby would and did obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of articles in commerce…[Annunziata] used his position as a high-ranking Local 91 official to solicit and collect cash payments totaling over $500,000 from various bus company owners whose employees were members of Local 91.

The reference to “others known and unknown” suggests additional indictments are imminent. If Annunziata cops a plea, he’s more than likely to testify against such defendants. At 75, he doesn’t have much to lose.