NEWARK—The former business manager of an ironworker’s local from Jersey City, New Jersey, pleaded guilty today to unlawfully demanding and receiving a bribe, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
James J. Kearney Sr., 76, of Belleville, New Jersey, former business manager and an employee of Local 45 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with unlawfully receiving a prohibited labor payment. Kearney was arrested on November 22, 2011, on a criminal complaint related to his receipt of this payoff. He was released on $25,000 bail.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On August 1, 2011, Kearney, while employed as the business manager for Local 45, met an individual who was a cooperating witness (the CW) and who was a representative of a construction company in New Jersey. The company employed ironworkers at various construction projects in New Jersey, including Hudson County. During a consensually recorded meeting, the CW asked about using non-union ironworkers at an upcoming construction project in Hudson County. The CW also said he would be willing to buy “union books” for his employees. A union book is proof of a worker’s admission into, and membership in, a union, and the book is property of the issuing local. Kearney said he would inquire about obtaining books for the CW’s employee, but the books would need to come from another ironworkers’ local, not Local 45. Kearney entered the CW’s car, and the CW gave Kearney approximately $3,000 in cash, saying the money was “good will” for the upcoming construction project.
On August 22, 2011, the CW met Kearney in Jersey City at a coffee shop near Local 45’s union hall. Kearney said he could obtain union books for some employees of the construction company and that the books would not come from Local 45. Kearney advised the CW it would cost approximately $5,000 for each union book, plus the required initiation and dues fees of approximately $728 per book. Kearney also told the CW he could “never say it [the books] came from me...please.” Kearney said the $5,000 payment per book “had nothing to do with” the $728 per worker initiation and dues fees. Kearney also advised that he needed the personal identifying information of the individuals who would be receiving the union books and wrote a note, provided to the CW, stating, “Name, address, Soc Sec [Social Security number], D.O.B., and check $728.00 each.”
On August 31, 2011, the CW met Kearney in Local 45’s union hall. During this consensually recorded meeting, the CW provided Kearney with the personal identifying information of two purported construction company employees. These identities, however, belonged to two undercover federal law enforcement officers. The CW also gave Kearney two blank U.S. postal money orders, each in the amount of $728. When he inquired about the next step in the process, Kearney replied, “You know what it is...cash.” The CW then handed Kearney $10,000 in cash ($5,000 for each book), and Kearney placed the cash in his desk drawer.
On September 2, 2011, an Ironworkers’ local located in southern New Jersey issued through the mail a receipt in the amount of $728 for initiation and union dues fees for one of the undercover federal law enforcement officers. Both money orders provided to Kearney were cashed by the same local in southern New Jersey.
The bribery count with which Kearney is charged is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or victim loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for October 30, 2012.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; special agents of 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 Robert L. Panella; and investigators of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, under the direction of Regional Administrator Jonathan Kay.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Moscato of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.