The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has a long history of criminal violence in getting its way. To some, the union has forsaken such behavior. But one Boston local apparently never got that memo. On September 19, four former members of Teamsters Local 82 were indicted in Boston federal court on 30 counts of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud and other crimes. The individuals – John Perry, Joseph Burhoe, James Deamicis and Thomas Flaherty, collectively known as the “Perry Crew” – over a five-year period allegedly shook down hotel managers, caterers and other entities involved in that city’s conventions and trade shows. At Local 82, which last December was taken over by Teamsters Local 25 (itself no stranger to these pages), fear was the name of the game – and the perpetrators, now gone from the union, knew how to instill it in others.
John Perry, the crew leader, had serious weight to throw around. The 60-year-old resident of Woburn, Mass., served as secretary-treasurer and business agent for Local 82. Since 1994 he became a trustee of its Health & Welfare Fund and its Savings & Investment Fund. And in 2003 the international union appointed him Assistant Director of Trade Shows and Convention Centers. The three other defendants – Burhoe, 44 (Braintree); Deamicis, 49 (Quincy); and Flaherty, 49 (Braintree) – each worked in the trade show or moving industries and had experience as representatives of the local. They made for a formidable group of enforcers.
Starting in 2007, say federal prosecutors, the defendants extorted money and other things of value from hotel managers, event planners, caterers, drug companies, hospitals, musical entertainment companies, and virtually anyone else involved in Boston-area conventions and trade shows. The Perry Crew regularly accosted business entities, sometimes only hours before the start of a scheduled event, if they didn’t provide jobs for union members. For the crew, that these jobs were superfluous was less important than the fact that they were union jobs. If the target failed to accede to the group’s demands, one or more of its members would demand financial tribute to ward off pickets and other disruptions of normal business operations.
The crew wasn’t big on internal dissent either. John Perry and company often used threats of violence or economic harm against fellow Local 82 members who didn’t go along with them. On one occasion, certain defendants allegedly physically assaulted a member who was a known critic of Perry; on another occasion they assaulted a member who had filed a union grievance against Perry; on still another, they intimidated a member for having appeared as a court witness. In addition, the crew allegedly stationed one or more of its members, and an unnamed officer, in front of the entrance of the union hall in order to prevent supposedly disloyal members from voting on a contract ratification proposal.
Finally, the indictment accuses three crew members – Burhoe, Deamicis and Flaherty – of engaging in unemployment fraud. The defendants, say prosecutors, knowingly underreported their incomes to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Insurance so as to be eligible for payments. Since 2008, Burhoe illegally collected 34 checks totaling more than $17,000, while Deamicis received 73 checks totaling over $9,000. And since 2010, Flaherty collected 48 checks totaling more than $20,000.
Cracking the case was made possible by a joint investigation by the FBI, the Labor Department and the Boston Police Department. Authorities are confident they have the right people. Robert Panella, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Region of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, explained: “The four defendants in this case allegedly used corruption and intimidation in their operation of the union. In addition, three of the defendants allegedly stole thousands of dollars of unemployment insurance benefits funded by the Recovery Act.” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis likewise remarked: “These indictments send a powerful message – Boston is not a play to pay city. Working with our federal partners we will continue to aggressively go after those who think they are above the law.” Future Boston conventions and trade shows should be a lot less nerve-wracking for participants.