New York Independent Union Boss Pleads Guilty to $1M+ Ripoff

At one time Rocco Fazzolari had bit parts in low-budget New York City crime movies. Little did people know that for a long time he starred in his own real-life version. Yesterday, on September 26, Fazzolari, former president of United Industrial and Service Employees Union Local 122, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to three counts of embezzlement related to his theft of a combined more than $1.3 million in funds from the East Meadow (Long Island), N.Y.-based union and a related benefit plan. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he will forfeit $941,828, pay additional restitution, and refrain from engaging in union-related activity for 13 years. The plea follows a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

United Industrial and Service Employees Local 122 is a modest-sized independent union. According to tax filings for the year 2017, the year after his thefts ended, it generated $143,000 in revenues. Rocco Fazzolari, who served as a trustee of the union employee welfare benefit plan as well president of the union itself, diverted a large sum of such revenues to his own personal use. Aided for much of the time by a co-conspirator identified only as “CC-1,” he took home quite a bundle. According to prosecutors, Fazzolari, now 58, a resident of Manhasset Hills, Long Island, illegally paid himself in two ways. First, starting about 2000 and lasting all the way until about June 2016, he engineered a kickback scheme with CC-1. Fazzolari paid this person’s consulting firm, Acclaim Administrators, Inc., more than $1.1 million out of the union welfare benefit plan for services never provided. In return, CC-1 kicked back most of the payments to Fazzolari. Second, during 2012-16, Fazzolari embezzled union funds to cover a wide range of personal expenses including spa treatments, a gym membership, a second car, medical expenses, actors’ union dues, credit card payments and ATM cash withdrawals. Over that time, he embezzled more than $128,000 from the union and transferred more than $89,000 from the benefit plan to “reimburse” the union.

Fazzolari faces a maximum of 15 years in prison at sentencing, set for January 28. Federal officials are confident that justice has been done. “Rocco Fazzolari abused his position as the president of a labor union to line his own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “As he admitted today, he embezzled funds and engaged in a kickback scheme that cost an employee benefit plan – which was established to provide medical care for union members – more than $1 million. Our office is committed to prosecuting those who misuse positions of trust for their own gain.” Michael Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, remarked: “While president of a labor union, Rocco Fazzolari stole union assets to pay for lavish personal items, including designer clothing, spa treatments, and a second vehicle for his family, betraying the members of the union.”

An interesting sideshow to all this is that about a decade ago Fazzolari had bit parts in locally-produced Mafia wiseguy movies such as Johnny Montana (2006) and Meatballs, Tomatoes and Mobsters (2008). The films got decent reviews. If he manages to stay out of prison – a longshot bet at this point – he might consider hiring an agent and rebooting his acting career. His career as a union man is pretty much over.