Tuesday morning the United States Attorney’s Office announced criminal charges had been filed against members of Ironworkers Union Local 401, charges that included assault, arson, extortion and the use of goon squads and strong arm tactics to allegedly further the union’s goals.
U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said that Joseph Dougherty, the Union’s Financial Secretary and Business Manager had been charged with three counts of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy and Arson. He has also been charged with two counts of use of a fire to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit arson. Also named in the indictments are: business agents Edward Sweeney, 55, of Philadelphia; Francis Sean O’Donnell, 43, of Warminster; Christopher Prophet, 43, of Richboro; William O’Donnell, 61, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; union members James Walsh, 49, William Gillin, 42, Richard Ritchie, 44, Daniel Hennigar, 53, and Greg Sullivan, 49, all of Philadelphia. All of the defendants have been charged with RICO conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, multiple counts of arson and use of a fire to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit arson.
According to federal investigators, the defendants damaged construction sites and equipment, assaulted contractors or their employees. It was all part of a continuing effort to allegedly force contractors to hire workers affiliated with Local 401. At one point in December 2012, a Quaker Meetinghouse that was under construction was set on fire.
“While unions have the right to legally advocate on behalf of their members, my office will not tolerate the conduct of those who use violence to further union goals,” said Memeger. “Union officials and members who commit arson, destroy property, use threats of physical harm, and engage in other acts of violence to extort victims on behalf of their union need to be criminally prosecuted. Today’s indictment makes that clear.”
According to the indictment, the defendants identified construction projects and job sites where work was being performed without using union members. Business agents would approach construction foremen at those work sites and allegedly imply or even explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property, or other criminal acts unless union members were hired. Federal agents said that the defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years. It is alleged that goon squads of union members and associates committed arsons, assaults and destroyed private property. One such squad referred to itself as the “The Helpful Union Guys” or “T.H.U.G’s.”
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward Hanko said the investigation isn’t over.
“The strong-arm tactics we have seen in this case are outrageous and brazen – and an unfortunate blow to the worthy intentions of unionism,” said Hanko. “The fight for workers’ rights may sometimes call for tough tactics, but violence, intimidation, arson, and sabotage are crimes which won’t be tolerated. This investigation has been wide-ranging, but it is far from over. Now that this indictment has been unsealed, we expect to hear from more victims and will aggressively pursue all other leads we receive.”