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City labor leaders, including LI man, and former labor official indicted on charges of taking kickbacks, prosecutors say

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a news conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Two New York City labor leaders, including one from Rockville Centre, and one former labor leader have been charged with taking more than $1 million in kickbacks over 10 years and embezzling money from their unions, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.

According to the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, three longtime labor union leaders -- Johnnie Miranti, of Rockville Centre; Rocco Miranti, of Howard Beach, Queens; and Louis Smith, of upstate Pearl River -- demanded kickbacks for years from an unnamed third-party administrator that was processing the unions' health care benefit programs.

While they served as union officers, the three men were trustees of the unions' health care benefit programs, according to a news release from Bharara's office. Johnnie Miranti, 39, is the recording secretary-treasurer of the International Union of Allied Novelty and Production Workers, Local 223, which is based in Manhattan and represents factory workers. Rocco Miranti, 70, is the business manager of Local 223, and Smith, 73, is a former president and former trustee of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 810, which is based in Long Island City, Queens, and represents freight drivers, warehouse workers and workers from other industries, Bharara's office said.

According to the news release, the three men demanded monthly kickbacks from the president of the unnamed business, who is a cooperating witness in the case. At first, kickback payments were made solely to Rocco Miranti, prosecutors said. Then, in 2005, he arranged for the business to become the third-party administrator for Local 810 in exchange for kickbacks for Smith, the release said. Initially, the payments to Rocco Miranti and Smith were about 5 percent of the fees paid by Local 223 and Local 810 to the business, but in 2006, Miranti and Smith increased their demand to about 10 percent, the indictment charged.

Around October 2014, the three men each had conversations and meetings, which were recorded by the FBI, with the cooperating witness about the monthly kickbacks. During some of these meetings, the witness made payments to the three men -- including a $10,000 cash payment to Rocco and Johnnie Miranti, and a $12,000 cash payment to Smith in December 2014, prosecutors said.

The three men are each charged with one count of conspiring to solicit and receive kickbacks to influence the operation of an employee benefit plan, one count of conspiring to embezzle from an employee benefit plan, and one count of conspiring to commit theft or embezzlement in connection with a health care benefit program, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. According to the news release, the indictment also seeks forfeiture of the money paid to the three men.

Attorneys for the three and a representative of the unions could not be immediately reached Wednesday night.

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