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Boston Teamsters attempted to extort ‘Top Chef’ show (Read More…)

By: Antonio Planas, Laurel J. Sweet - September 30, 2015

Five Teamsters have been slapped with federal indictments for allegedly threatening a production company filming Bravo’s “Top Chef” reality cooking show in Boston in an “old-school thug” attempt at getting union members jobs, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.

“The indictment alleges that a group of rogue Teamsters employed old school thug tactics to get no-work jobs from an out of town production company,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “In the course of this alleged conspiracy, they managed to chase a legitimate business out of the City of Boston and then harassed the cast and crew when they set up shop in Milton. This kind of conduct reflects poorly on our city and must be addressed for what it is – not union organizing, but criminal extortion.”

Indicted for conspiracy to extort, attempted extortion and aiding and abetting from Local 25 were Teamsters John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli, Richard Jeffrey and Mark Harrington.

According to the indictment, the show—not named in court papers—had a non-union production company, also not named. The harassment of the “Top Chef” crew and an investigation by the Milton Police Department was widely reported by the Herald and other media in August 2014.

“The company hired its own employees, including drivers, for the filming of the show and did not need work performed by union members,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement today. “Beginning on June 5, 2014, the defendants conspired to force the production company to pay Local 25 members for unnecessary work by threatening physical and economic harm to the company.”

On June 5, Redmond approached the production crew while they were filming at the Revere Hotel and “demanded that members of Local 25 be hired as drivers,” the indictment says. Redmond was told no jobs were available.

Redmond then insisted the producers speak with Harrington, secretary treasurer of Local 25, who warned the producer if he didn’t strike a deal with the union, they would start to follow the crew and picket.

On June 9, 2014, an unnamed “representative from the City of Boston” called the Omni Parker House hotel and later the Menton restaurant telling the businesses that Local 25 members were planning to picket during filming, the indictment said. The production company learned later that day the Omni Parker House would no longer allow filming there because “the hotel did not want to be associated with a Local 25 picket.”

The next day, Redmond, Harrington, Fidler, Cafarelli and Jeffrey went to an unnamed restaurant in Milton to picket.

The defendants then “chest-bumped and stomach-bumped crew members with the production company in an “attempt to forcibly enter the restaurant,” the indictment states.
“Throughout the morning, the defendants continued to use and threaten to use physical violence against members of the Crew and others,” the indictment reads. “The defendants yelled profanities and racial and homophobic slurs at the Crew and others. The defendants blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set and used actual physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set.”

The Teamsters prevented a food truck from delivering food to the set, and nine cars belonging to crew members were later found to have their tires slashed, according to the indictment.

The Herald reported last year that according to a Bravo source, Teamsters picketers at the Milton site called “Top Chef” star Padma Lakshmi a “(expletive) whore,” and threatened to “bash that pretty face in.”

Local 25 did not immediately return a call requesting comment today.

Last year, Local 25 president Sean O’Brien called the allegations “fiction at best.”

If convicted, the Teamsters face prison terms of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

“While unions have the right to advocate on behalf of their members, they do not have the right to use violence and intimidation,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The strong-arm tactics the FBI has seen in this case are egregious and our investigation is far from over. Today’s arrests should send a message to those who think they can get away with manipulating the system that they better think twice.”

Local 25 has had a tempestuous relationship with Hollywood and the feds for years, with members convicted of money laundering, extortion, racketeering and shaking down movie producers who tried to film in Boston.

This morning, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told the Herald he was not called to testify before a federal grand jury. He otherwise declined to speak about the case.
“I don’t have any comment on it right now,” he said. “I know that there’s an indictment, an ongoing investigation. I have no comment on the issue right now.”

Posted by Admin on 09/30 at 10:33 AM

Former medical marijuana industry union organizer indicted for taking bribes (Read More…)

By Rebecca Strom September 17, 2015

OAKLAND (BCN) — An Oakland labor official working to organize the medical marijuana industry was indicted by a federal grand jury today in connection with allegations that he used his position for personal gain according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Daniel Rush, a former union organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was indicted on charges including taking illegal payments as a union employee, honest services fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering, federal prosecutors said.

Rush, 54, allegedly received payments or other things of value such as shares in a medical dispensary from people within the medical marijuana industry and from attorneys between 2010 and August 2014. In return he provided union support for dispensaries, advice on how to thwart union organizing efforts and client referrals.

Medical dispensary operator Carl Andersen provided payments to Rush in 2010 and shares in the dispensary operation worth at least $51,000 in return for UFCW support for his efforts to obtain an Oakland dispensary permit, prosecutors allege.

Rush allegedly borrowed $600,000 from Martin Kaufman, a medical marijuana dispensary operator. The loan was structured to obscure its origins with the help of attorney Marc Terbeek, and when Rush could not repay it he accepted loan forgiveness in return for assistance in blocking union organizing efforts, according to federal prosecutors.

He also allegedly accepted kickbacks from Terbeek for referrals of dispensaries and workers compensation clients, and as a member of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission allegedly demanded a well-paid job from a dispensary in return for his support.

Rush was initially charged in August, and subsequently fired from his position with UFCW. At the time of his arrest he posted a statement from his attorney on Facebook calling his firing “entirely unjustified.”

“The accusations in this Complaint, that Mr. Rush acted in violation of labor laws and committed “honest services” fraud are nothing but allegations; they are unproven by any standard, let alone the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and have never been tested through cross examination in a court of law,” the statement said.

Federal prosecutors said the case against Rush began with reports from those within the medical marijuana industry, and several of the people named in the complaint against him, including Terbeek and Kaufman, are now cooperating with investigators.

Bail was set at $500,000 at Rush’s initial court appearance on Aug. 12 and he is currently out of custody. He is next scheduled to appear on Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court

Posted by Admin on 09/18 at 10:09 AM