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Press Release

Racketeering And Arson Charges Filed Against Members Of Ironworkers Union

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA- An indictment was unsealed today, and arrests made, in a case charging ten members of Ironworkers Local 401 with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property, and assault, in order to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers. Specifically, the indictment charges RICO  conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, three counts of arson, two counts of use of fire to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit arson. Eight of the ten individuals named in the indictment are charged with conspiring to use Ironworkers Local 401 as an enterprise to commit criminal acts. Joseph Dougherty, 72, of Philadelphia, the Financial Secretary/Business Manager of Local 401, was one of the eight individuals charged with racketeering conspiracy. The indictment details incidents in which the defendants threatened or assaulted contractors or their employees, and damaged construction equipment and job sites as part of a concerted effort to force contractors to hire and pay Local 401 workers, even when those workers performed no function. Among the criminal acts set forth in the indictment is the December 2012 arson of a Quaker Meetinghouse under construction in Philadelphia.

Charged with Dougherty are: business agents Edward Sweeney, 55, of Philadelphia; Francis Sean O’Donnell, 43, of Warminster, PA; Christopher Prophet, 43, of Richboro, PA; William O’Donnell, 61, of Cherry Hill, NJ; union members James Walsh, 49, William Gillin, 42, Richard Ritchie, 44, Daniel Hennigar, 53, and Greg Sullivan, 49, all of Philadelphia.

The charges were announced today by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward J. Hanko, Special Agent-in-Charge John Spratley with the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, and Special Agent-in-Charge Sam Rabadi with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

According to the indictment, the defendants had a network of individuals, friendly to the Ironworkers Local 401, to help identify construction projects and job sites where work was being performed without using Local 401 members.  The indictment alleges that business agents would approach construction foremen at those work sites and imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property, or other criminal acts unless union members were hired.  The defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years, in order to force contractors to hire union members.  It is alleged that the defendants created “goon” squads, composed of union members and associates, to commit assaults, arsons, and destruction of property.  One such squad referred to itself as the “The Helpful Union Guys,” “T.H.U.G’s.” 

In the December 2012 arson of the Quaker Meeting House, the indictment alleges that after the contractor refused to hire union ironworkers, defendants Walsh, Gillin, and Hennigar went to the construction site at 20 East Mermaid Lane, in Philadelphia. They set a crane on fire and cut steel beams and bolts.  In another episode set forth in the indictment, members of Local 401 picketed a construction site near King of Prussia Mall between May and June of 2010 because the contractor did not hire union workers. It is alleged defendant Richard Ritchie and three others later resorted to violence when they assaulted some of the non-union workers with baseball bats.  In the July 2013 episode, the indictment alleges that defendants Sweeney and O’Donnell, under Dougherty’s direction, set up a picket line and threatened the contractor of an apartment complex under construction at 31st and Spring Garden Streets, if he did not hire Local 401 members.  According to the indictment, the contractor relinquished his profits and turned the job over to a union-affiliated contractor as a result of the threats. 

“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 United States Attorney Zane David 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.”

“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.”

If convicted of all charges, defendants Dougherty, Sweeney, Walsh, and Gillin each face a mandatory minimum term of 35 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 130 years; defendant Hennigar faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendant Sullivan faces a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendants Prophet and Ritchie face a statutory maximum of up to 40 years in prison; defendants Francis and William O’Donnell each face a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison.

The case was investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, with assistance provided by the Philadelphia Police Department Corruption Task Force, East Whiteland Township Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Employee Benefit Security Administration.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore with legal assistance from Gerald Toner, Acting Deputy Chief for Labor-Management Racketeering, Organized Crime and Gang Section at the Department of Justice.

Click here to view the indictment
Click here to view the defendant chart

An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525

Updated December 15, 2014