David Hart was an accomplice, not a mastermind. But that didn’t make his acts any less illegal. On February 24, Hart, formerly financial secretary-business agent for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to concealing acts of extortion by his boss. He had been charged eleven days earlier in an information count following a joint probe by the FBI, the IRS and the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration. The union represents more than 18,000 operators of cranes and other heavy construction equipment across Michigan.
Federal prosecutors had alleged that Hart, 42, a resident of East China Township, Mich., during 2003-12 had been aware of, and participated in, an extortion scheme benefiting an unnamed union official indicated as “Union Official A.” This individual forced business agents and other employees of Local 324 to “contribute” weekly payments to a special re-election fund. These payments represented more than $5,000 of each employee’s annual salary. Hart facilitated the transfer of funds by Official A. In his February 24 plea, he agreed to pay $37,000 in restitution. At sentencing, he faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.