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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 14, 2013

Former Official Of Teamsters Local 337 Indicted On ConspiracyAnd Bribery Charges

A former business agent and trustee of Teamsters Local 337 was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Detroit on bribery and conspiracy charges, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.  McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge James Vanderberg, Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, and Patrick Kawa, District Supervisor, Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Indicted was Michael Townsend, age 68 of Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

According to the indictment, from April 2003 through August 2008, Townsend conspired with others to prevent Teamsters Local 337 from organizing the employees of LaGrasso Brothers Produce, Inc. by creating a front company known as Sam LaGrasso Produce Company.  Townsend and his co-conspirators would then use LaGrasso family members and managers of LaGrasso Brothers Produce, Inc.  to pose as employees of Sam LaGrasso Produce Company and enroll them as union members of Teamsters Local 337.  Townsend and his co-conspirators would then enter into collective bargaining agreements between Local 337 and Sam LaGrasso Produce Company to create the appearance that the employees of LaGrasso Brothers Produce, Inc were unionized.  In exchange for his actions in preventing the unionization of employees of LaGrasso Brothers Produce, by Teamsters Local 337, Townsend took bribes in the form of cash payments from LaGrasso Brothers Produce, Inc.

"This defendant was a union official who was entrusted to help working people organize," McQuade said.  "He betrayed the Teamsters and workers for his own profit.  We are seeking to hold him and the company accountable for their conduct." 

Townsend is facing a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

On January 10, 2013, Sam LaGrasso Produce, Inc. pleaded guilty to a one count Information charging that it made and agreed to make prohibited payments to a labor official.  The company is awaiting sentencing where it faces a fine of $6,300,000 up to $12,600,000.  The plea agreement contains a cooperation agreement requiring corporate officers to assist in the investigation and prosecution of others and the possibility of a reduced sentence based on that cooperation.

An indictment is only a charge and it is the government’s responsibility to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The case was investigated by agents and officers of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and  the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.    It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Morris and Mark Chutkow.

Updated March 19, 2015