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Friday, October 30, 2009

In recent years, UFCW labor bosses have faced charges of corruption, mismanagement, and embezzling member dues. Recent examples include:
The February 18, 2007 edition of the Bergen County Record highlighted major funding problems for UFCW Local 174's pension plan, which was funded at only 62 percent of the money needed to pay its future obligations. Anything under 65 percent, the Record noted, is generally considered in "crisis." How did this happen? Fewer people have joined the union or worked in the industry, meaning that shrinking numbers of participants have to pay for retirees. In fact, current workers account for only 14 percent of the pension's participants while nearly 64 percent of the plan participants were already drawing retirement checks. In this light, it becomes clear why desperate UFCW leaders' are attacking employers across the country - to get new dues-payers to pick up the bill for current members.
In late 2005, the former assistant to the president of UFCW International, Joseph DiFlumera, was sentenced for mail fraud, racketeering, and extorting more than $1.5 million from a grocery chain. DiFlumera told prosecutors that he would offer an "insurance policy" that allowed a company to "come under the umbrella" of protection from union organizing. DiFlumera "repeatedly advised these individuals that the monies paid to him were handed over to the president of Local 1445 and the UFCW. The defendant insisted that if these monies were not paid by the company the company would suffer extreme economic harm."
Former UFCW International secretary-treasurer Joseph Talarico pled guilty to his role in embezzling $2 million from Local 1. He was ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution. In related indictments for defrauding UFCW, his son was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to repay $81,000 in embezzled funds; his daughter was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to repay $26,000; and his brother pled guilty to embezzling $650,000 from the union. Together, the four family members made more than $1 million in salaries from the local in 1996.
In 1993, Newsday reported that UFCW founder William Wynn traveled in a $5 million union-owned jet plane and sold his house to the union for $620,000 (nearly twice the appraised price) -- and continued to live there for at least three years. The paper reported that in addition to Wynn's salary of $263,000 ($346,000 adjusted for inflation), he was reimbursed for $80,000 in expenses the previous year. It further noted that a reformer seeking to unseat Wynn "said that Wynn's salary and perks are a disgrace when put in the context of the incomes of the workers he represents" and had research that showed "Wynn's salary rose 122 percent from 1980 to 1992, while the average meat packing worker's wages went up 3 percent over that period."
Dept. of Labor Investigations
Beyond newspaper accounts of union corruption, the Department of Labor's Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) investigates and prosecutes union bosses who embezzle members dues. Since 2001, OLMS has prosecuted dozens of cases against UFCW locals and has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in embezzled union member dues. Below are the OLMS's UFCW case reports.
UFCW 717
Amount Embezzled: $14,000.00
On March 24, 2006, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Rebecca Bandt, former President of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 717, was sentenced to six months in prison followed by three months in a community treatment center and three years probation. Bandt was also ordered to make full restitution to the union. On January 13, 2006, Bandt pled guilty to embezzling more than $14,000 from the union. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.
UFCW 990
Amount Embezzled: $20,385.00
On February 2, 2006, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Stephen L. Bush, former Recording Secretary for Food and Commercial Workers Local 990 was sentenced to six months home detention with electronic monitoring and five years probation. Bush was also ordered to make restitution of $20,385.98 and to pay a special victims' fund assessment of $400. On October 6, 2005, Bush pled guilty to four counts of embezzling union funds. Bush is the son of former Local 990 President, Ronald A. Bush, who also pled guilty to embezzling union funds. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.
UFCW 717
Amount Embezzled: $14,065.00
On January 13, 2006, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Rebecca Bandt, former President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 717, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds totaling $14,065. Bandt had previously been indicted on September 14, 2005, in a 14-count indictment consisting of five counts of embezzling union funds, five counts of falsifying union records, and four counts of making a false statement on a required report. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.
UFCW 538
Amount Embezzled: $30,210.92
On November 29, 2005, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Michael Rice, former President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 538, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, six months home confinement, three years probation, and ordered to make full restitution, for embezzling union funds totaling $30,210.92. Rice entered a guilty plea on September 19, 2005. The conviction follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.
UFCW 990
Amount Embezzled: $1,967.00
On June 29, 2005, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Ronald A. Bush, former president of Local 990, United Food and Commercial Workers, pled guilty to four counts of embezzling $1,967 in union funds. Bush's guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office. [Related documents: HTML PDF]
UFCW 1050 and 1052
Amount Embezzled: $91,126.00
On April 5, 2005, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Angelous "Smokey" Lineback, former international representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers, Retail Wholesale (UFCW) District Council, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment followed by 36 months of supervised probation. In addition, he was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $77,441.00 to UFCW Local 1050 and $13,685.00 to UFCW Local 1052. On May 3, 2004, Lineback pled guilty to embezzling union funds and falsifying union records for the two locals he was representing following an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.
UFCW 990
Amount Embezzled: $9,806.80
On January 14, 2005, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Grace Maldonado, former bookkeeper of Local 990, United Food and Commercial Workers, was sentenced to five years of supervised probation for embezzling union funds. She was ordered to pay a $100 court assessment and make restitution in the amount of $9,806.80. Maldonado pled guilty on September 3, 2004, following an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.
UFCW 990
Amount Embezzled: $27,248.82
On December 14, 2004, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Barbara Ann Hayes, former bookkeeper of Local 990, United Food and Commercial Workers, was sentenced to six months home detention enforced by electronic monitoring and five years probation. Hayes was also ordered to pay a $100 court assessment and make restitution in the amount of $27,248.82. On May 17, 2004, Hayes pled guilty to embezzlement following an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office. [Related documents: HTML PDF]
UFCW 294
Amount Embezzled: $3,672.84
On June 8, 2004, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Brian Brabazon, former president of Chemical Workers Local 294 (United Food and Commercial Workers), was sentenced for making a willful false entry in union records. Brabazon pled guilty to the charge on March 5, 2004. He was initially indicted in September 2003, on one count of embezzling union funds; he later pled guilty to the lesser charge. Brabazon was sentenced to one year of probation, restitution in the amount of $3,672.84, and a $100 fine (which was waived). The guilty plea and sentence follow an investigation by the OLMS San Francisco District Office.
UFCW 1050
Amount Embezzled: $182,443.00
On May 3, 2004, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, a two-count information was filed against Angelous "Smokey" Lineback, former international representative for Retail, Wholesale District Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1050. The information charged him with one count of embezzling $182,443 in union funds and one count of making false entries in union records. On the same date, Lineback entered a plea agreement and pled guilty. The charge and subsequent plea follow an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.
UFCW 1116
Amount Embezzled: $53,570.00
On April 16, 2004, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Julie Palmi, former bookkeeper of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1116, was sentenced to six months home confinement with work release privileges and three years probation. In addition, she was ordered to make full restitution. Palmi pled guilty on January 21, 2004, to one count of embezzling approximately $53,570 in union funds. An information charging Palmi with embezzlement was filed on October 16, 2003. This case was transferred from the District of Minnesota to the Southern District of California pursuant to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the consent of the parties. The charge, guilty plea, and sentence follow an investigation by the OLMS Minneapolis Resident Investigator Office.
UFCW 1101
Amount Embezzled: $9,987.00
On March 11, 2004, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, James Robinson, former president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1101, was placed on two years probation for failing to maintain union records. He was ordered to complete restitution to the union in the amount of $9,987. Robinson pled guilty to the charge on December 9, 2003. The guilty plea and sentence follow an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.
UFCW 655
On October 17, 2003, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Nick A. Torpea, former business agent for Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, was sentenced to one year probation and fined $750 for making a false entry in union records. Torpea pled guilty to the charge on July 30, 2003. Torpea's sentencing followed the September 18, 2003, sentencing of his father, Nick J. Torpea, to three years probation for making a false statement to a Department of Labor investigator. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.
UFCW 193
Amount Embezzled: $7,000.00
On February 14, 2002, in Kings County (California) Superior Court, Robert S. Ramos, former president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 193-I, entered a plea of no contest to misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to one year in the county jail and three years of supervised probation and was fined $2,700. He was also required to pay $6,000 in restitution ($1,000 was previously paid) over the next three years. The charges had been brought on November 1, 2001, following an investigation by the OLMS San Francisco District Office.
UFCW 427
Amount Embezzled: $13,218.46
On January 30, 2002, in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Roger Causby, former secretary-treasurer of Food and Commercial Workers Local 427, was sentenced to four months imprisonment and four months home detention, followed by two years of supervised probation. He had earlier pled guilty to embezzling union funds and had made restitution of $13,218.46. The charges had been brought following an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

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