A federal grand jury has indicted one current and one former official of an iron workers’ union local in Indiana on charges that they used violence and threats of violence to extort a construction contract from a local firm, the Dept. of Justice says.
DOJ said that Thomas R. Williamson Sr. and Jeffrey R. Veach were arrested on Aug. 16. Each was charged with one count of extortion conspiracy and two counts of attempted extortion, all under the Hobbs Act.
Both defendants have entered not-guilty pleas, according to a court document. A jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 22 in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Ind.
DOJ noted that the indictment is only an allegation.
The indictment doesn’t specify Williamson’s and Veach’s union affiliations, though DOJ refers to them as “union officials.”
Veach is listed as president/business agent of Iron Workers Local 395, based in Portage, Ind., in the local’s latest annual report with the U.S. Dept. of Labor and on the local’s web page.
Williamson isn’t listed in Local 395’s 2017 report with the Labor Dept., or on the local’s web page. But the 2016 DOL report states that he was a business agent for the local during that year.
A court document in a separate civil case pending in the district court states that Williamson retired as a business agent in March 2016.
Williamson and Veach on Aug. 16 had initial court appearances and were arraigned before a federal magistrate judge in the district court. They were released on $20,000 bonds.
The indictment, filed on Aug. 15 and unsealed the next day, alleges that on Jan. 7, 2016, the two men used violent acts and the threat of violence against non-union laborers to try to extort a labor contract from the owner of an unnamed steelworking company and a business contract from the owner of a construction company.
The indictment refers to the companies’ owners only as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2, respectively.
Attorneys for Willliamson and Veach did not respond to an ENR request for comment. A person answering the phone at Local 395 said she had no comment.
According to the U.S. Attorneys’ Criminal Resource Manual, the Hobbs Act, which became law in 1946, “prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce ‘in any way or degree’.”
The separate civil lawsuit, filed in February 2016 by Illinois-based D5 Iron Works, alleges, among 20 counts, that, on Jan. 7 of that year, Local 395 members assaulted D5 workers at a job site in Indiana, seeking to have the project transferred to union workers.
Among the defendants in that case are Williamson and Veach, as well as Local 395. The case is still active and pending in the same federal district court in Indiana that is handling the U.S. government case against the two men.
In an August 2016 filing in the civil case, Local 395 denied the merits of D5’s allegations and also denied “that any of the alleged acts were sanctioned or directed by Local 395.”
In their responses to D5’s complaint and allegations in the 2016 civil case, Williamson and Veach each invoked their Fifth Amendment protection multiple times.