Raymond Norville was a home renovation contractor. Somehow he took that to mean a right to take client money without necessarily doing renovations. On November 18, Norville, owner of an Essex County, N.J.-based construction firm, RRL Unique Homes Inc., was sentenced in Trenton federal court to 14 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release and full payment of restitution, for defrauding a customer in New York City of nearly $100,000 in connection with a residential remodeling project. As part of a plea agreement in June, prosecutors dismissed charges that Norville defrauded the Newark-based International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1233 of at least $100,000. Norville was lucky. Evidence strongly suggests his union thefts totaled around $370,000.
Union Corruption Update first reported on this story nearly three years ago. Back in February 2012, Norville, now 45, a resident of Orange, N.J., was arrested and charged with embezzling at least $100,000 from ILA Local 1233. The money was supposed to go for renovations and repairs at union headquarters. Though unlicensed in New Jersey as either an electrician or a plumber – and the job required electrical and plumbing work – he won the contract. According to the complaint: “From in or about February 2007, through in or about June 2008, Raymond Norville did knowingly and willfully embezzle, steal and unlawfully convert to his own use, and the use of others, money and funds of Local 1233…by causing the union to disburse funds to him by improperly invoicing the union for renovations to its office building that was the result of overbilling, using duplicate invoices and work not performed, totaling at least $100,000.” This sum likely was well on the low side. Based on a review of invoices for the period February 2007-December 2007, RRL generated around $370,000 through overbilling, double-billing or failure to perform promised work. What work he did perform typically failed to pass building inspection.
A joint probe by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor eventually led to Norville’s prosecution and arrest. Yet his downfall came in a superseding indictment in a case unrelated to union business. According to federal prosecutors, Norville in January 2011 entered into a contract to perform about $250,000 in renovations to a home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, N.Y. owned by an unnamed woman. The client paid $98,600 in cash toward the purchase of materials, supplies, architectural plans, rental equipment and permits. Though Norville had e-mailed pictures of materials he intended to purchase, he did not deliver them to the job site nor did he provide proof of purchase. By that May, with work not yet commenced, the customer requested a refund, or failing that, delivery of promised materials and supplies. Norville responded by writing her a check for $24,500 to cover about a quarter of the debt. Unfortunately, the check bounced. The customer then filed a complaint with police, which in turn led to a federal investigation and a superseding indictment. Norville pleaded guilty this June to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The plea and sentencing are gratifying. Yet they don’t provide a full measure of justice. Raymond Norville, to be sure, stole from that Bronx homeowner. Yet by any reasonable account, he also ripped off a labor union by an even larger amount. Prosecutors, in seeking an easy conviction, understandably were willing to dismiss his thefts from Local 1233 of the International Longshoremen’s Association. But remember, these thefts came at the expense of dues-paying members. ILA leadership has a long history of corruption, especially in collusion with the criminal underworld. Rank and file members deserve some overdue reimbursement.