For John Dougherty, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, there seems to be no end in sight. His nephew, Gregory Fiocca, a member and shop steward of the Philadelphia union, isn’t seeing a bright future either. On March 3, each were indicted in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and 18 counts of extortion related to their alleged pressuring of Fiocca’s employer, an electrical contractor, to pay Fiocca for services not performed. The charges against Dougherty are separate from his multiple indictments of two years ago. The latest actions follow an investigation by the FBI and the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration, and Office of Inspector General.
As Union Corruption Update has noted in several articles, Electrical Workers Local 98 has been riddled with self-dealing. The edifice of corruption would collapse on January 30, 2019, when a federal court unsealed a 116-count indictment against John Dougherty and seven other persons charging them with a wide range of offenses including embezzlement, wire fraud and bribery. A couple years earlier, in August 2016, FBI agents had raided over a dozen union construction sites, homes and offices in search of evidence. Two persons not included in the indictment, George Peltz and James Moylan, respectively, a New Jersey-based electrical contractor and a nonprofit fundraiser on behalf of the union, later were charged with fraud. They aventually pleaded guilty and were sentenced. Two other unindicted individuals, union contractor Donald “Gus” Dougherty (not an immediate relative of John Dougherty) and his tax accountant Michael McKale, were indicted last November on multiple fraud and theft charges. Dougherty pleaded guilty this January.
The indictments last Tuesday of John Dougherty and nephew Gregory Fiocca, who is closely related to indicted co-conspirator Brian Fiocca, demonstrate that the Justice Department has good reason to widen its net. According to prosecutors, Dougherty and Fiocca conspired to extort salary, wages and benefits from Fiocca’s employer during August 19, 2020-January 17, 2021 for services not rendered. In this way, Fiocca could continue to get paid without being subject to a performance evaluation that surely would have been negative. Starting in October 2019, Fiocca, by now a steward, frequently failed to show up for work. And when he did, he often was not present at his work station and failed to complete assigned tasks.
As “encouragement” for the contractor to act as if nothing was wrong, Dougherty and Fiocca allegedly threatened the contractor with force – and on at least one occasion applied it. Prosecutors say that on August 19, 2020, after Fiocca had been paid for fewer than 40 hours for the previous week because he actually had worked for fewer than 40 hours that week – a symmetry apparently lost on the defendants – Fiocca grabbed his manager by the throat, threw him on a desk, and threatened him and the company owner-operator with further violence if he didn’t get a full paycheck. That same day, after the assault, Dougherty used his union clout to make escalating threats against the contractor that included: preventing electricians to work overtime, thus forcing the company to operate on three shifts; pulling electricians off the job; and preventing the contractor from soliciting future work.
Prosecutors believe their case against the defendants is airtight. “No one is entitled to wages they do not earn, and more importantly, no one should fear economic reprisal or physical violence for attempting to do honest business in Philadelphia,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “As alleged in the indictment, Fiocca took advantage of his uncle’s position as a powerful leader of an influential union, assaulted a co-worker, and enriched himself at the expense of his employer – and Dougherty had his nephew’s back through all of it. These kinds of actions do not represent ‘business as usual,’ and will not be tolerated in this District.”