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LI union business manager sentenced to 5 years in prison

A Long Island based union business manager accused of claiming he had a gang of ex-military “sick animals” to intimidate workers and bragging about mob ties to shake down construction companies was sentenced to 5 years in prison for extortion Friday in Brooklyn federal court.

Roland Bedwell, 58, of Freeport, who managed Local 175 of the United Plant and Production Workers, admitted last year to one of three plots in which he was charged with blocking job sites to force companies to sign up with his union local and using tactics that once included disabling an asphalt truck on the Long Island Expressway.

“The underlying problem here is that Mr. Bedwell used his position to intimidate, threaten and extort law abiding citizens for the benefit of his employer and his own benefit,” said U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis. “ . . . To combine organized crime with labor is a very, very dangerous formula.”

Prosecutors said Bedwell referenced his union’s ties to the Gambino family to scare reluctant owners, and was dismissive of workers — admitting once that his local’s landscaping contracts were weak but it didn’t matter because workers were “Mexicans, Guatemalans . . . from a third-world country.”

Before the hearing, Garaufis had threatened to sentence Bedwell above the 51 to 63 month level recommended by federal guidelines, partly because of recorded jail conversations after his bail was revoked for cocaine use in which Bedwell said he didn’t care about following the law.

But on Friday, a defense lawyer said Bedwell had “two sides,” praising his efforts in raising two sons who were in court. And the judge cited a letter Bedwell wrote — after the threat of a higher sentence — apologizing for his “macho attitude and general disregard for authority,” and telling Garaufis that “at 58 years old I can change, thanks to you.”

“Who’s the real Mr. Bedwell?” Garaufis wondered. “The one who wrote me this letter, or the one who made these statements? The one in the letter I hope.”

In court filings prosecutors said Bedwell described himself as a “muscle man” who ran the “street” for the union and detailed a secretly recorded 2013 conversation in which he said he had a crew of 15 thugs including ex-Navy SEALs who would attack nonunion workers who resisted signing up with the union.

“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 allegedly said.

The government, which asked for a sentence of 63 months, said Bedwell and his co-conspirators had been responsible for assaults on workers, tire slashings, and interference at work sites that included a public works paving project at LaGuardia Airport.

“Unions exist to protect workers, not to serve as vehicles for extortion,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “This sentence ends Bedwell’s career of extorting business owners and sends a clear message that others who attempt to do so will suffer the same fate.”

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