Contractor Pleads Guilty to Defrauding NYC Painters Local Benefit Fund

Francis Mazzella couldn’t quite overcome his old temptation of getting on the take. Nominally the owner of an electrical services contracting firm, he pleaded guilty on February 27 in Brooklyn federal court to defrauding a benefit fund of a Queens, N.Y.-based union, Metal Polishers Local 8A-28A, an affiliate of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), of an unspecified sum. The fraud charges were related to renovation work his company allegedly performed on a union building. For Mazzella, an ex-cop with the New York Police Department (NYPD), it was a painful reminder of a dozen years earlier, when he was forced off the force in the wake of a separate scandal. In the current case, he faces anywhere from 33 to 41 months in prison.

Mazzella, now 39, had been contracted to help renovate the union hall of the 1,400-member Metal Polishers Local 8A-28A. By his own admission, however, his electrical services company, City-Wide Control Systems, didn’t do the work. A company owned by union welfare fund trustee Robert Fabrizio did. Mazzella had submitted inflated invoices to the union fund so as to conceal involvement by Fabrizio’s Linden, N.J.-based firm, Total Building Services Inc. In return, Fabrizio provided financial aid to City-Wide, effectively controlling the company. It wasn’t Mazzella’s first brush with bribe-taking. Back in 2000, he and three other NYPD officers had been charged with fixing parking tickets and doing favors for the owner of a Mafia-connected social club in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and left the force. Fabrizio hasn’t yet been charged with any offense.

Meanwhile, for the past several years the president of the cash-strapped local, Hector Lopez, has earned a reputation for high living at the expense of rank and file. An audit by IUPAT headquarters a few years ago revealed Lopez had engaged in shady practices, including drawing $20,000 from a union account in order to pay for a new Cadillac Escalade. The audit, conducted after Lopez threatened to disaffiliate, also showed that the boss resided in a 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom home in Oakland Township, N.J., owned by none other than Total Building Services Inc. Court papers filed in 2009 indicated Lopez sought to buy the house, though no deed transfer had been recorded. When it comes to self-enrichment at IUPAT Local 8A-28A, Francis Mazzella appears to be small-time.