PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Six members from IBEW Local 98, including leader John Dougherty, a local business owner and Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon, have been indicted following a 30-month-long federal probe.
Federal authorities say $600,000 was pilfered from union accounts for a wealth of personal expenses.
Along with Dougherty and Henon, IBEW Local 98’s political director Marita Crawford is charged with embezzlement, theft and wire fraud, among other counts. Records show Crawford, Dougherty, union president Brian Burrows, Local 98 training director Michael Neill, union workers Niko Rodriguez and Brian Fiocca ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars on IBEW credit cards.
“Union leaders and public officials are held to similar standards, both are required to act in the best interest of others. When they violate that duty in order to enrich themselves it’s a federal crime. When they conspire to do so together it’s also a federal crime,” said First Assistant United States Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania Jennifer Arbittier Williams.
The indictment alleges that Dougherty and co-defendants conspired to embezzle Local 98 money for their own personal benefit and to benefit their families, friends, and their commercial businesses. They allegedly spent thousands of union dollars on expensive family meals and personal items, including food, baby supplies, dog food, hair styling items, clothing, home improvement projects and much more.
The indictment alleges Dougherty, Burrows and Neill used the union’s money to pay for construction projects and repairs on their own homes. The paperwork was then allegedly falsified by Massa, a contractor, to make it look like the work was done on Local 98 properties.
Dougherty is also accused of using union money to pay Henon so he would do his bidding from his seat on city council.
Dougherty and Henon face decades in prison if convicted.
Federal agents carried out raids on Dougherty’s South Philadelphia home, his union office and his bar in August 2016. The public seizure of computers and documents played out over two years ago at 10 locations across the city, including Henon’s two offices.
“Once we get this ugly scenario by, everything will be fine,” Dougherty said at the time.
Henon and Dougherty have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“I have done nothing wrong. I have spent 28 years proudly working for Local 98. In 2011, I ran for City Council to give a voice to honest union men and women, working Philadelphians and those in need of a strong voice to represent them in this great city,” Henon said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Dougherty called the charges “preposterous.”
“To allege that John in any way attempted to defraud the Union he cares about so deeply is preposterous. He looks forward to his day in court and the opportunity to clear his name,” the statement reads.
“Johnny Doc,” as he’s best known, has ruled for decades over the city’s electrician’s union. His official title is business manager. Dougherty has regularly been called one of Pennsylvania’s most politically influential people.
His endorsements of politicians carry significant weight.
Earlier this week, the first results of the long-running federal investigation and probe surfaced.
George Peltz, the owner of MJK Electric, pleaded guilty in connection to providing a $37,000 security system in a building that was partially owned by a Local 98 official, documents show. That person is only identified as “Official Number One.”
It’s alleged Peltz performed $2,900 in electrical work at a relative of the Local 98 official, and later installed nearly $20,000 in security and TV installation work for another relative.
Additionally, Peltz is accused of purchasing and installing large-screen televisions in the union official’s home. Those televisions and related work are valued at $4,000. Court records also allege Peltz gave the Local 98 official $5,500 in gift cards to Boyds Philadelphia, a designer clothes store.
Peltz will be sentenced later this spring.
On Tuesday, Dr. James Moylan, the former zoning board chief of Philadelphia, was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection to the federal investigation.