Eleven top union officials in the construction industry on Long Island have been indicted by federal authorities on allegations of accepting bribes totaling over $100,000 following a two-year wiretap investigation that began in Suffolk County, officials announced Thursday.
Authorities allege the defendants — current and former members of Local 638, a union with jurisdiction over pipe fitting on Long Island and in New York City — agreed to accept dozens of bribes, beginning in October 2018, "to corruptly influence the construction industry at the expense of labor unions and their own members who they’re supposed to be representing," according to Manhattan federal prosecutors and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors alleged the bribes were in exchange for "acquiescing in the bidding and performing of construction work with non-union labor for plumbing and pipe fitting projects that would otherwise have potentially been awarded to companies whose employees were represented by Local 638 or Local 200."
Plumbers Local Union #200 of the United Association, based in Ronkonkoma, has jurisdiction for all plumbing work in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to its website.
Several of the defendants, according to the indictment, met unidentified business owners at restaurants across the metropolitan area, including Long Beach, Melville, Rockville Centre and Commack, to collect the bribes.
Among those indicted were James Cahill, 71, of upstate Pearl River, president of the New York State Building and Construction Trade Council, which represents over 200,000 unionized construction workers across the state. Prosecutors allege Cahill was the leader of the so-called "enterprise," which they said "conspired to accept cash bribes, as well as bribes in the form of 'loans' that were never repaid, free meals and drinks, free labor on personal property, and purchases of home appliances."
Cahill, also a member of the executive council for the New York State American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or the NYS AFL-CIO, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, honest services fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to violate the Taft-Hartley Act.
Sam Talkin, an attorney for Cahill, said: "We're pleading not guilty and we deny the allegations."
Attorneys for the other defendants could not immediately be reached Thursday afternoon. No one answered the phone at Local 200. A woman who answered the phone at the Long Island City-based Steamfitters Local 638 said: "We have no comment at this time."
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini, whose office brought the case to the U.S. attorney's office, said in a statement: "These union officials — who purported to be the ones looking out for workers and their rights — were in fact engaged in an enterprise of corruption at the expense of the hardworking men and women they claimed to represent. This was a complete betrayal of these unions and their membership. Our two-year wiretap investigation uncovered a shocking level of greed and corruption, and the investigation is very much ongoing."
According to the indictment, Cahill "influenced Local 638’s elections and installed loyal associates into official positions" within the union and "initiated several Local 638 officials into the 'Enterprise' so they could accept bribes and expand their influence."
During one meeting, according to the indictment, Cahill told an unnamed employer not to sign with a union, but instead to "tell everyone to go [expletive] themselves" because "if you become union, you’ll have 12 [expletive] guys on your back."
In addition to Cahill, other union officials indicted were Christopher Kraft, 43, of Commack, a Local 638 official representing Manhattan; Patrick Hill, 45, of Rockville Centre, who represented Nassau County; Matthew Norton, 56, of Syosset, who represented Queens; William Brian Wangerman, 60, of Atlantic Beach, who represented Staten Island; Kevin McCarron, 52, of Lindenhurst, who represented western Suffolk County; Jeremy Sheeran, 50, of Astoria, who represented parts of Manhattan; Andrew McKeon, 62, of Astoria, who represented Queens; Robert Egan, 60, of Kings Park, the financial secretary-treasurer; Scott Roche, 52, of Woodbridge, New Jersey, an at-large representative; and Arthur Gipson, 59, of Kings Park, a Local 200 official who represented all of Long Island, according to federal authorities.