A grand jury recently indicted New York City’s carpenter’s union chief and nine other members and contractors following a sweeping investigation that resulted in allegations of fraud, racketeering and accepting bribes.
Michael Forde, executive secretary-treasurer of the district council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and other key union officials are accused of helping individual contractors – which are not named in the 29-count indictment – steal “millions of dollars” from union benefit funds by allowing them to pay union members cash below union rates without benefits, employ undocumented and non-union workers and forgo contributions to the union’sbenefit funds, a violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement. In exchange for looking the other way, Forde and eight others – John Greaney, business manager and president of Local 608, the largest local in the district council; Local 608 officer Brian Hayes; shop stewards Michael Brennan, Brian Carson, Joseph Fuocco, John Stamberger and Michael Vivenzio; Joseph Olivieri, executive director of the Association of Wall, Ceiling and Carpentry Industries of New York – allegedly accepted bribes valued at approximately $1 million. Another man, contractor Finbar O’Neill, is accused of helping to deliver the illegal payments.
Forde, Greaney and Hayes were later fired by national union officials and the New York City District Council was put on suspension.
All 10 men have been arrested. After turning himself in to authorities, Forde tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. He and several of the other men named in the indictment were ordered by a magistrate judge to undergo drug treatment. Forde and Greaney, 49, were named together on six of the 29 counts.
“Instead of protecting the financial interests of union members and their families, corrupt union officials and the contractors who bribed them are charged with betraying [the union] and its benefit funds to enrich themselves,” said Lev L. Dassin, acting United States Attorney for New York’s southern district. “[The indictment] shows continuing corruption at the highest ranks of the union’s leadership even after years of dedicated efforts under the federal consent decree to rid the union of wrongdoing.”
Dassin was referring to a 1994 consent decree that stemmed from a 1990 civil racketeering suit brought against the carpenter’s union in an attempt to address “a history of union corruption and organized crime influence within the district council,” according to the indictment. The decree prohibited union officials from associating with organized crime figures put greater restrictions on the job site assignment of union members and shop stewards.