Boston Teamsters Convicted of Extortion, Racketeering

Teamsters logoInternational Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82 over several years perfected the art of the shakedown. In response, a federal jury has created a shakeup. On November 19, after a seven-week trial, John Perry and Joseph “Jo Jo” Burhoe, respectively, ex-president and representative of the now-defunct Boston local, were convicted on various counts of racketeering and conspiracy related to extortion at Boston trade shows. They and two other union members, James “Jimmy the Bull” Deamicis and Thomas Flaherty, allegedly forced exhibitors to provide cash and/or union jobs as a prerequisite for having their trucks loaded and unloaded, and their booths set up. The jury could not reach a verdict on Deamicis; it acquitted Flaherty. The defendants had been indicted in September 2012 following a joint investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, and Boston police.

Union Corruption Update over two years ago summarized the details of the case. On September 19, 2012, a grand jury indicted the four defendants on a combined 30 counts of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud and other crimes. John Perry, Joseph Burhoe, James Deamicis and Thomas Flaherty, charged prosecutors, intimidated a wide variety of exhibitors at Boston conventions and trade shows over roughly five years. Perry, now 62, a resident of Woburn, Mass., was the leader of the group, known as the “Perry crew.” Not only was he secretary-treasurer and business agent for Teamsters Local 82, he also served as Director of Trade Shows and Convention Centers for the international union. Perry, his chief enforcer, Burhoe, now 46, a resident of Braintree, Mass., along with Deamicis and Flaherty, routinely accosted exhibitors, demanding up-front money or promises to hire union family members or friends for no-show jobs. If an exhibitor failed to comply, it could expect to be picketed.

According to federal prosecutors, the defendants intimidated a whole range of for-profit and nonprofit enterprises into filling union pockets and creating union positions. The indictment read:

(John) Perry, Director Trade Shows and Convention Centers for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82, and (Joseph) Burhoe, a convicted felon who was a member of the union, worked in the trade show and moving industries. Since 2007 the defendants engaged in illegal activities in order to generate money for themselves, their friends, and family members. The defendants extorted various entities throughout Boston including hotels, event planners, catering companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, music entertainment companies, and non-profit organizations, none of which had collective bargaining agreements with Local 82.

Those who experienced the Perry crew’s wrath included Massachusetts General Hospital, the United States Green Building Council, the Westin Waterfront Hotel and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The union went the extra mile. If its targets refused to create make-work jobs, the defendants picketed and disrupted their operations (or threatened to do so), sometimes only hours prior to an event. Any particular event at a convention or trade show that included nonunion workers risked being shut down or at least picketed.

The four-man crew’s reign of terror extended to dealings with union dissenters. On various occasions, Perry and/or others: beat union members who criticized their control of Local 82; assaulted a member who had filed a grievance against Perry; intimidated a member for having been a court witness; and stationed at least one loyalist in front of the entrance of the union hall in order to prevent dissenters from voting on a contract ratification proposal. Early in the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Winkler told jurors, with words and photos, how Burhoe beat up longtime union member, Edward Flaherty (apparently no relative of Thomas Flaherty), for his outspoken opposition to Perry. “This is what happened to him, and it was [by] that man, in the back, Joseph Burhoe,” she said. Burhoe, Deamicis and Flaherty also had been indicted for over $50,000 in unemployment insurance fraud. The trio allegedly underreported incomes to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance in order to be eligible for payments.

Attorneys for the defendants rationalized such behavior as nothing more than the usual union rough stuff that got out a little of hand. “This isn’t like some Mafia union case where people are getting killed, or maimed,” said John Perry’s lawyer, Thomas Butters. “This is one fight, where the government is trying to make it an atmosphere of fear, or coercion, and it just isn’t true.” In the end, however, the jury found enough compelling evidence that a cabal of thugs had been running the show. Based on statements by dissenters, Boston police and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, joined by the FBI, concluded that Perry and Burhoe had engaged in a criminal conspiracy over several years. Each is set for sentencing in late February. The two other defendants fared better. The trial of Deamicis, now 51, resulted in a hung jury. And Flaherty, now 50, was acquitted of all charges.

All said, this was a victory for accountability. Indeed, the handwriting was on the wall in December 2011, when Teamsters Local 25, prodded by General President James P. Hoffa, took over Local 82, effectively dissolving it. As the international union has been under strict federal supervision since its 1989 RICO settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, Hoffa, though an ally of Perry, had little choice but to arrange the takeover. The Local 82 brand name was simply too radioactive. Ironically, Teamsters Local 25, no stranger to racketeering, hasn’t learned much. Several months ago, after a nonunion crew for the reality TV show “Top Chef” parked their motor vehicles outside a Milton, Mass. restaurant, Steel & Rye, several unnamed members of Local 25 reportedly slit their tires.

The Perry-era Teamsters Local 82 is history. This is a welcome development for enterprises that no longer have to cringe at the prospect of paying off the union in order to get their merchandise displayed at Boston trade shows. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz put it this way: “Today’s verdict reconfirms our commitment to protecting those doing business in Boston from unions’ extortionate demands for personal payoffs or other illegitimate labor objectives. We will also protect union members’ rights to democratic participation in the affairs of the union, including the right to vote on contracts that affect their livelihood, their right to file grievances, and their right to appear in court as a witness, without fear of intimidation or physical assault by union officials.”


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