NYC-New Jersey Port Authority Union Boss Sentenced

Daniel Hughes long had major emotional issues. But apparently they were less than resolved at the time of his sentencing. On March 7, Hughes, formerly president of Port Authority Field Supervisors Association Local 111-S, was sentenced in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court to 21 months in prison for embezzling nearly $300,000 in dues from the union, whose roughly 250 members perform work on bridges, tunnels and airport runways managed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. He also was ordered to pay restitution. Hughes had pleaded guilty a little over two years ago following an internal investigation and a criminal prosecution.

Union Corruption Update twice has covered this case. Daniel Hughes, now 51, a resident of Queens, N.Y., served as Local 111-S president. As head of the union, an affiliate of the United Service Workers, he had the authority to draw upon union accounts to write checks, withdraw cash, and charge business-related expenses. Unfortunately, he saw his authority as a license to steal. From about January 2005 to December 2009, alleged prosecutors, he embezzled about $294,000 in local funds. The destinations of the money made for colorful newspaper headline material, especially given that Hughes weighed at least 350 pounds. He used much of the stolen money to pay for expensive restaurant meals, gambling losses, and trysts with hookers. Several fellow union members grew suspicious when they discovered that bills were going unpaid. In January 2010, the local ordered a probe into Hughes’ financial management. The findings triggered his resignation from his Port Authority and union jobs. The union turned the results over to a U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Hughes pled guilty in June 2010.

Considering Hughes originally faced up to anywhere from 46 to 57 months in prison, his 21-month sentence this past March wouldn’t seem that harsh. But a bow toward leniency wasn’t enough to prevent him from having a courtroom meltdown. After learning he would be remanded to custody of authorities immediately after the sentence, he launched into a tirade. “You suck! You piece of shit!” he yelled at U.S. marshals attempting to escort him from the premises. Prior to his outburst, he had apologized to union rank and file, emotionally breaking down while describing how his thefts were a consequence of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, among other problems for which he had gotten help. “My addictions were totally out of control,” he said. “I was a sick man. I feel like I am back on the right path.” That may be so, but not too many people are cutting him slack. U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano, while acknowledging Hughes had real problems and had done some good for members, said at sentencing that he “raped and pillaged the funds contributed by his co-workers.” Strong language – but not too many of those co-workers likely would take issue.