Top union brass for the Brooklyn and Manhattan chapters of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters were hauled into court Wednesday on charges that they ran a membership scheme in which they took $1,500 bribes to dole out membership cards to nonunion workers
Prosecutors say that Salvatore “Sal” Tagliaferro used his authority as president of the Brooklyn chapter to obtain hundreds of the cards — often called “union books” — and that John “Cigars” DeFalco, vice president of the union’s Manhattan chapter, doled hundreds of them out to non-union workers.
According to the government’s indictment, since October 1, 2017, Tagliaferro’s chapter, Local 926, saw an unusual explosion of membership — it added 990 new members. For comparison’s sake, prosecutors say, a similar union chapter in Queens added 200 members during the same time period.
During a search of DeFalco’s vacation home in New Jersey, authorities found $150,000 wrapped up in Ziploc bags and hidden away in his attic. The feds say that, in March, the defendants found out that they were under investigation — and that DeFalco tried to cover their tracks, telling a co-conspirator not named in court papers to delete incriminating text messages.
Both men — who each pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court Wednesday — are charged with honest services wire fraud, conspiracy and conversion of union assets and DeFalco has been hit with additional obstruction and witness tampering charges.
The New York City District Council of Carpenters is no stranger to scandal — in the 1990s, the union was placed under a trusteeship and under the watch of a federal monitor, which is still in place today.
Attorneys for Tagliaferro and DeFalco both expressed confidence that their clients could be cleared at trial.
“We are confident that Mr. Tagliaferro will achieve full exoneration and vindication as the true and devoted union man that he is,” said lawyer Richard Rosenberg, who represents Tagliaferro.
Following the defendants’ arrests, the Washington, DC-based United Brotherhood of Carpenters put Local 926 under different leadership, the Real Deal reported.