Union Organizer Indicted for Corruption, Attempted Extortion, and Money Laundering
OAKLAND—A federal grand jury in Oakland indicted Daniel Rush today with taking illegal payments as a union employee, honest services fraud, attempted extortion, and money laundering announced Acting United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.
According to the indictment, Rush, 54, of Oakland, is alleged to have used his position as a union organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to obtain money and other things of value over a five year period from 2010 to 2015.
Rush was an organizing coordinator of the medical cannabis division of the UFCW. The indictment alleges that, while a union employee, Rush accepted $550,000 in debt forgiveness from an individual affiliated with medical marijuana dispensaries. According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in connection with a criminal complaint filed in the same matter, Rush and a coconspirator formulated a scheme to obtain debt forgiveness in exchange for favorable treatment by the union. The individual who agreed to the debt forgiveness was cooperating with the FBI’s investigation at the time Rush proposed the arrangement.
The indictment also charges Rush with taking kickbacks from an attorney to whom he had referred medical marijuana dispensaries as clients. Rush, the indictment alleges, had a duty to provide honest services to the UFCW; that duty including refraining from self-dealing when interacting with the marijuana dispensaries whose workers it was his job to organize. Rush is charged with engaging in a scheme in which he violated that duty in exchange for kickbacks from the attorney.
The indictment further charges Rush with taking kickbacks from the same attorney in exchange for arranging for the attorney to represent clients in worker’s compensation matters. Rush was an officer and director of an advocacy organization for the working poor. Rush directed the organization’s referral of worker’s compensation clients to the attorney. In exchange, the attorney provided Rush with a credit card on which Rush charged thousands of dollars of personal expenses which ultimately were paid by the attorney.
Rush also is charged with attempted extortion. Rush was a member of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, which is a commission of the City of Berkeley organized to facilitate the appropriate licensing and regulation of medical marijuana in the city. Rush demanded a well-compensated job from a prospective medical marijuana dispensary in exchange for his influence as a member of the commission.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Rush engaged in a conspiracy to commit money laundering and financial structuring, as well as substantive money laundering. The indictment and FBI agent’s affidavit filed in the case explain that Rush took a loan totaling $600,000 in cash from a person engaged in the marijuana business. Rush and the attorney engaged in a series of structuring transactions designed to obscure the origin of the money. Over the ensuing years, Rush required the attorney to fund interest payments on the loan and, when Rush ultimately was not able to repay the loan, he offered favorable union benefits in exchange for forgiveness of the loan.
In sum, Rush was charged with taking illegal payments as a union employee, in violation of 29 U.S.C. §§ 186(a) and (b); honest services fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343 and 1346; attempted extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951; conspiracy to commit structuring and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; and money laundering by concealment, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i).
The investigation began with cooperation from individuals in the medical marijuana industry who reported Rush’s allegedly corrupt activities. According to the affidavit, the attorney with whom Rush was working has been cooperating with the FBI and has agreed to plead guilty to offenses related to the charges against Rush.
Rush was originally charged by criminal complaint and arrested in Oakland on August 11, 2015, and made his initial appearance in federal court in Oakland on August 12, 2015. Rush was released on bond and bail was set at $500,000. Rush’s next scheduled appearance is September 23, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. for arraignment before the Honorable Kandis Westmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge, in Oakland. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Haywood S Gilliam, Jr., U.S. District Court Judge, in Oakland.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years if he is convicted of the charges of honest services fraud, attempted extortion, or money laundering, along with a fine as much as $500,000 and restitution if appropriate. If the defendant is convicted of accepting an illegal payment as a union employee or engaging in a criminal conspiracy, he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco and investigated by the FBI.