A union business manager from Long Island accused of claiming he had a gang of 15 ex-military “animals” and bragging about his local’s Gambino family ties to shake down construction companies for paving contracts pleaded guilty to extortion Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.
Roland Bedwell, 57, of Freeport, who managed Local 175 of the United Plant and Production Workers, faces from 51 to 63 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines after he admitted he intimidated a nonunion contractor to hire workers from his local on a job in Queens.
“I knew my actions were wrong and illegal and I am sorry, your honor,” Bedwell, who has been detained since he was charged last year, told U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis.
Bedwell admitted to one of three plots in which he was accused of blocking job sites, assaulting workers and using mob connections to threaten owners to channel work to Local 175, including one paving job at a Howard Beach Capital One bank branch and another at LaGuardia Airport.
The guilty plea involved disruptions and threats to a construction company owned by a man identified as John Doe 2, who wore a wire after his trucks were vandalized and recorded Bedwell bragging that he cost owners who didn’t go along “a tremendous amount of money.”
In a June 2013 conversation, prosecutors said in court filings that Bedwell said he had a crew of 15 ex-military men including Navy SEALs on the street who were “animals” prepared to use violence against nonunion workers to get their way.
“They don’t like the idea, that, one, that they’re home and this company’s working nonunion, and these men — who don’t even belong to this country — are taking their jobs and they don’t like it,” he said. “And they ain’t happy about it.”
Bedwell, the government said, described how he disrupted other contractors who resisted — in one case blockading a truck delivering trees until “his trees died on the truck,” and in another stealing keys from an asphalt truck that couldn’t make its delivery and caused a traffic jam on the Long Island Expressway.
Prosecutors said he also name-dropped about the union’s ties to alleged Gambino family captain Salvatore Franco and his son, saying they “take care of all the problems” and implying that his connections made him untouchable.
“I don’t know how I don’t have any felonies against me!” he said.
Brooklyn’s acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde said, “With references to organized crime and tough guys, Bedwell used his position as a labor union official to threaten business owners. . . . Today’s guilty plea holds Bedwell accountable.”
Garaufis scheduled Bedwell’s sentencing for Nov. 2.