December 16, 2014

More Guilty Pleas in RICO Case Involving Ironworkers

PHILADELPHIA—Richard Ritchie, 45, of Philadelphia, William O’Donnell, 62, of Cherry Hill, NJ, and Christopher Prophet, 43, of Richboro, PA, pleaded guilty today to RICO conspiracy and other charges in connection with an extortion case in which Ironworkers Local 401 used violence and intimidation to get union members assigned to jobs on non-union worksites. In addition to the RICO conspiracy count, Ritchie and Prophet each pleaded guilty to attempted extortion which interferes with interstate commerce; and Ritchie also pleaded guilty to violent crime in aid of racketeering. United States District Court Judge Michael Baylson scheduled sentencing hearings as follows: Ritchie, April 28, 2015; O’Donnell, April 27, 2015; Prophet, April 17, 2015. The defendants are among 12 defendants charged in the case. All but one have pleaded guilty. Trial for the remaining defendant, Joseph Dougherty, is scheduled to begin January 5, 2015.

The 12 defendants charged had a network of individuals, friendly to the Ironworkers Local 401, to help identify construction projects and job sites where work was being performed without using Local 401 members. The business agents for the union would approach contractors at those work sites and imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property, or other criminal acts unless union members were hired. The defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years, in order to force contractors to hire union members. The defendants created “goon” squads, composed of union members and associates, to commit assaults, arsons, and destruction of property. One such squad referred to itself as the “The Helpful Union Guys,” “T.H.U.G’s.”

Ritchie faces a statutory maximum 60 years in prison; Prophet faces a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison; and O’Donnell faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The case was investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, with assistance provided by the Philadelphia Police Department Corruption Task Force, East Whiteland Township Police Department, the Upper Merion Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Employee Benefit Security Administration. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore with legal assistance provided by Gerald Toner, Acting Deputy Chief for Labor-Management Racketeering, Organized Crime and Gang Section at the Department of Justice.