Michael Sewell avoided making benefit contributions by avoiding the necessary paperwork. His good luck streak was bound to end. On August 27, Sewell, owner-operator of MESCO Inc., a suburban Baltimore HVAC and plumbing supplier-service contractor, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to one count of falsifying a document related to a benefit plan sponsored by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 24. Sewell had been charged in July following a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.
As Union Corruption Update reported last month, this criminal case grew out of a February 2012 civil suit in which a group of IBEW benefit plans along with Local 24 accused the Joppa, Md.-based MESCO, and another firm, Michael Sewell & Associates, of nearly $500,000 worth of wage/hour underreporting over more than four years for the purpose of avoiding making contributions. It had all the appearance of a double-breasting scheme. A federal judge this past February awarded the plaintiffs most of that money. In the criminal case, the Justice Department, based on Labor Department compliance documents, concluded that Michael Sewell, age 50, a resident of Street (Harford County), Md., knowingly underreported worker hours on Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) remittance reports so as to avoid making nearly $200,000 in benefits contributions. Sentencing is scheduled for October 30.