Local 17 President and Business Manager Convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Commit Extortion, and Attempted Extortion
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 07, 2014|
BUFFALO, NY—The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that, following a nine-week trial, a federal jury has convicted Mark N. Kirsch, 54, president and business manager of Operating Engineers Local 17, based in Hamburg, New York, of conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion, and attempted extortion. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. In addition, the defendant’s interest in Local 17, including his management position within the union, is subject to forfeiture.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony M. Bruce and Edward H. White, who, along with U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Robert S. Tully, handled the prosecution of the case, defendant Kirsch, from at least January 1997 to December 2007, participated in a criminal enterprise with the objective of extorting property from various construction firms throughout Western New York. The objective of the Local 17 criminal enterprise was to obtain several types of property through extortion, including: (1) the right of various businesses to make business decisions free from outside pressure; (2) the wages and benefits to be paid by various businesses for unwanted, unnecessary, and superfluous labor; (3) the jobs and associated wages and benefits of employees of various businesses at construction sites in the Western District of New York; and (4) the property of construction contractors consisting of wages and benefits to be paid pursuant to labor contracts with Local 17. Among the unlawful means the defendant Kirsch used to secure these objectives were actual violence, threats, intimidation, sabotage of property, and threats and attempts to interrupt and delay construction projects in order to drive up costs to the contractors and thus cause economic harm.
“Today’s verdict confirms that for over 10 years, former IUOE Local 17 president and business manager Mark N. Kirsch operated a criminal enterprise. Kirsch engaged in a decade-long racketeering conspiracy. He conspired to extort employers and employees of Western New York of jobs, wages, and benefits through the use of physical violence and the destruction of property. The Office of Inspector General will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate criminal allegations of wrongdoing by union officials and union members,” stated Cheryl Garcia, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.
Retired Local 17 business representative Gerald E. Bove, member Michael J. Caggiano, member Kenneth Edbauer, and business representative Thomas Freedenberg were acquitted of similar charges.
The verdict is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Michael Cerretto.