Ex-union official pleads guilty in extortion scheme

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A former union official pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to trying to hide an extortion scheme by his boss, who threatened to fire employees and agents who didn’t contribute to his re-election fund.

David Hart, 42, of East China Township, formerly the elected financial secretary and chief of staff of Operating Engineers Local 324, part of the International Union of Operating Engineers, entered the guilty plea Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

Hart admitted that between 2003 and 2012, he was aware of the extortion scheme, which was coordinated by his former boss, referred to in federal documents as “Union Official A.”

“Union Official A” forced union business agents and other employees to each pay more than $5,000 into a his re-election fund, the FBI said. He threatened to fire employees who refused to make weekly payments into the fund.

Federal authorities say the unnamed official also caused at least two union employees to be fired from their jobs because they complained about having to make the weekly payments.

“Hart was aware of this extortion scheme by his boss at Operating Engineers Local 324, and Hart acted to conceal the crime by assisting the other union official in transferring money out of the fund and to the union official and others,” an FBI press release said.

Hart has agreed to pay $37,000 in restitution because of his involvement in the scheme. He faces a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

“Corruption has no place in union leadership,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a press release. “Working men and women should expect their elected union leaders to act in their best interests, and not to profit from their positions of leadership.”

Operating Engineers Local 324 represents more than 18,000 workers in Michigan who operate construction cranes and other heavy equipment.


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