For a while, Gary Cooper had a lucrative deal going with Laborers International Union of North America Local 657 – until his business partners were caught. On February 27, Cooper, principal owner of a Greenbelt, Md.-based building contractor, STS General Contracting, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 68 months in prison for his role in embezzling more than $1.7 million in funds from the union, at the time based in Washington, D.C. He also was ordered to pay the union $1.632 million in restitution and forfeit $1.734 million in illegally-derived proceeds. Two other defendants, Anthony Frederick and Christopher Kwegan, were sentenced last month for their offenses. The actions follow a joint probe by the FBI and the Labor Department.
According to prosecutors, Cooper, now 57, a resident of Kettering, Md., along with co-defendant area real estate agent and STS co-owner Christopher Kwegan, conspired with former LIUNA Local 657 business manager Anthony Frederick in a variety of schemes to divert union funds to their own use. They included a down payment of $225,000 on a home purchased by Frederick, over $600,000 to a corporation owned in part by Frederick’s wife, $172,000 to a Qatar-based engineering services firm, and various personal expenses. The scam fell apart when union officials, alerted to a cash shortfall in their coffers, reported the shortage to the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General. Frederick and Kwegan eventually were convicted; each was sentenced last month. Cooper was convicted by a jury in November. His sentencing represents the last order of business. As for Laborers Local 657, it since has been absorbed into another Laborers construction workers affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area, Local 11.