Members of ironworkers union accused of extorting construction sites

By Jim Boyle | Aug 1, 2014

A federal grand jury returned an indictment this week, adding two counts of extortion which interferes with interstate commerce against members of Ironworkers Local 401 and allegations of additional criminal conduct as part of the RICO conspiracy.

Those allegations concern 14 additional acts of extortions, or “night work,” committed by the defendants at various construction sites in the Philadelphia area, including several local schools, authorities say.

Named in the two new counts are Joseph Dougherty, Christopher Prophet, Richard Ritchie, Edward Sweeney, and William O’Donnell.  Co-defendant Francis Sean O’Donnell is also named in the RICO count.  They were indicted in February with co-defendants James Walsh, William Gillin, Daniel Hennigar, Greg Sullivan, and Francis Sean O’Donnell.

The indictment filed in federal court in Philadelphia says that the business agents of the Ironworkers Local 401 would approach non-union contractors performing ironwork at the job sites and demand that they hire union ironworkers.

If the non-union contractors refused, members of the Ironworkers Local 401, sometimes referred to as the “Shadow Gang,” would sneak into the construction site at night, use sledgehammers to smash the anchor bolts of the building, and damage equipment.

Each incident caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage and construction delays, court documents say.

The vandalized construction sites included elementary schools in Wallingford, Pa., and Sharon Hill, Pa., a firehouse in Eddystone, Pa., an assisted living facility in Horsham, Pa., as well as sites in Havertown, Wynnewood, Malvern, and Drexel Hill.

One example of the alleged conduct includes significant damage to a construction site at a commercial business in Malvern, Pa.

On Jan. 20, 2012, Francis Sean O’Donnell allegedly reported at a general meeting of the Ironworkers Local 401 that he was “in negotiations” with the contractors to hire union ironworkers and that if the Ironworkers Local 401 does not “get some men put on they are going to run into some unsuspected delays.”

On Feb. 17, 2012, O’Donnell allegedly reported this contractor failed to hire any union ironworkers and stated, “I just want to thank the Shadow Crew for another job well done.  They were shut down for about a week and cost them about $150,000.”

O’Donnell further allegedly reported at this meeting that “about a week after that I got a call” from the contractor wanting to hire some union ironworkers.

Each additional count of extortion which interferes with interstate commerce carries up to 20 years in prison.  Each of the defendants is facing a substantial prison term if convicted.

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