Union Negotiator Pleads Guilty to Fraud
BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Frank Aquila, 76, of Amherst, N.Y., pleaded guilty to fraud involving a scheme to defraud the Buffalo Educational Support Team (BEST), a union representing approximately 900 teacher’s aides and assistants in the City of Buffalo School District, before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito, Jr., who is handling the case, stated that between March 2006 and December 2011, the defendant served as the chief negotiator for BEST during 2008 collective bargaining negotiations with the City of Buffalo School District. Aquila, as chief negotiator for BEST, refused to reach final agreement with the district on a collective bargaining agreement until and unless the district agreed to allow BEST to (1) select its own insurance broker; (2) make commission payments totaling $135,000 per year for four years to an insurance broker selected by BEST; and (3) agreed to make four payments to BEST of $65,000 each for costs and expenses associated with administering health insurance benefits for its members.
The defendant failed to disclose to the district or BEST that he would share in commissions paid to the insurance broker selected by BEST, and in payments made to BEST to administer health insurance benefits for its members. Aquila unlawfully obtained $332,500.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Cheryl Garcia of the New York Regional Office.Sentencing is scheduled for January 28, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Skretny.