Former Union Boss Indicted For Extorting $300K From Members

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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A former Detroit union boss was indicted for using his authority to extort roughly $300,000 from workers he represented, investigators said Wednesday.

John Hamilton was president of the Operating Engineers Local 324 from 2003 until 2012. He was charged with using funds meant for union elections for personal benefit. Hamilton made union employees pay $5,000 per year for the campaign fund. He also threatened union employees with termination if they complained.

“Union leaders who misuse their positions to enrich themselves at the detriment of the hard-working men and women for whom they serve will be held accountable for their actions,” Special Agent in Charge Jared Koopman said. “The fact that Mr. Hamilton concealed his activities and used the very jobs he was elected to protect as leverage to obtain money makes this case even more egregious,”

Koopman heads the Criminal Investigations division within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The investigation was a combined effort by the IRS and Department of Labor among local agencies. Hamilton used the campaign funds for meals and liquor and gave $5,000 to his daughter as a wedding present.

“Labor unions exist for the benefit of their members, not to line the pockets of the union leaders,” United States Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “Hard-working union members deserve honest representation, and leaders who exploit their positions for personal gain will be brought to justice.”

Hamilton did indeed fire one union employee in 2010 for complaining about the campaign fund. He took $71,000 from the campaign fund in 2012 after losing reelection. He also gave more than $35,000 each to fellow Local 342 leaders Steven Minella and David Hart.

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