Philadelphia Contractor Enters Plea in Alleged IBEW Local Embezzlement Scheme
Anthony Massa , 66, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, theft and embezzlement of labor union assets in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl
His plea makes him the third person to admit guilt as part of the investigation that led to the indictment last year of Dougherty, City Councilmember Robert Henon and five other officials and members of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers .
But unlike the others, who pleaded guilty in public court hearings, Massa’s plea Monday was shrouded in secrecy. The hearing took place with no notice on the court’s public docket and all records related to it remain under court seal.
The previous defendants who have admitted their guilt -- New Jersey electrician George Peltz and chiropractor James Moylan -- both publicly said they had not agreed to testify against Dougherty. And both have already been sentenced, a sign that the deals they struck with prosecutors were not contingent upon their cooperating in the ongoing case.
Massa’s attorney, William J. Brennan , declined on Tuesday to discuss his client’s case or whether he had agreed to provide testimony at Dougherty’s trial, which is scheduled for September.
If Massa were to become a witness for the government, he would be the first person in Dougherty’s orbit to strike a plea deal to testify against the labor leader known widely by the nickname “Johnny Doc” in the more than a decade he has been dogged by FBI investigations.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to confirm or deny Tuesday that Massa’s had entered a guilty plea, let alone discuss the terms of his plea agreement.
Brennan, however, said: “There’s a lot of fine people in this indictment that still remain presumed innocent.”
Massa, owner of Massa Construction Corp. in the city’s Bustleton section, has long benefitted from Local 98 and its executives.
According to union filings with the Department of Labor , his company has received nearly $100,000 in market recovery funds -- payments meant to subsidize labor costs for union contractors -- between 2005 and 2016 and was paid nearly $2 million between 2010 and 2016 for construction and repair work at Local 98 buildings. Henon paid him out of his campaign coffers for renovations on his council office as well.
But the 2019 indictment cast doubt on some of that work, alleging that invoices totalling nearly $400,000 that Massa submitted to Local 98 were actually to compensate him for improvement projects undertaken at Dougherty’s South Philadelphia home and other residences and businesses owned by members of his family and union officials.
For leader John Dougherty , union-paid generosity began at homeMore than $35,000 allegedly went to install a new front door and repair water leaks in Dougherty’s house. Prosecutors say union president Brian Burrows received a new walk-in closet and fence, master bathroom renovations, and air-conditioning repairs to his home in Mount Laurel -- improvements worth more than $48,000 .
Those projects came as Massa allegedly undertook took on additional work at the home of Michael Neill , the head of the union’s apprentice training program, as well as at a building Neill owned with Burrows in Pennsport and Doc’s Union Pub , a bar he and Burrows previously owned with Dougherty.
The Inquirer has also previously identified Dougherty’s father, John J. Dougherty Sr ., and brother Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty as two of 10 unnamed and uncharged members of the labor leader’s family who prosecutors say were also beneficiaries of work from Massa or other perks paid for with Local 98 funds.
According to the indictment, Massa was paid more than $5,000 out of the union’s general fund to repair water damage at the eldest Dougherty’s house in Somers Point, N.J. , in 2015 and an unspecified sum for painting and other construction projects at the justice’s home in November 2011 .
Sources: Pa. Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty received union-paid benefits in Local 98 caseKevin Dougherty’s lawyer, Courtney Saleski , has previously denied that her client did anything wrong in relation to Massa, describing the justice as “an honest public servant.”
A spokesperson for John Dougherty declined to comment Tuesday on Massa’s guilty plea, but the labor leader has repeatedly maintained that he did not break the law.
He has pleaded not guilty to the allegations involving Massa as well as other accusations of union embezzlement and bribing Henon, the city councilmember.
(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.