Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BLET President Rodzwicz arrested on bribery charges

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Edward W. Rodzwicz, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, was arrested on a federal complaint charging him with bribery, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday. Acting U.S. Attorney Michael W. Reap made the announcement.

edrodzwicz.jpgRodzwicz, 63, was charged with one violation of 18 U.S.C. section 666, bribery in connection with a federally funded program; and one violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1952, interstate travel to carry on unlawful activity. He made his initial appearance this afternoon in Cleveland. If convicted, 18 U.S.C. section 666 carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000; 18 U.S.C. section 1952 carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

"According to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, the BLET maintains a list of designated legal counsel (DLC), who are recommended to their membership to handle injury cases under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)," USDOJ said. "Designation as a DLC generates very lucrative business for designated attorneys. The National President of the BLET has final authority over the designation of FELA attorneys.

"In February 2009, an internal compliance committee recommended that a particular DLC attorney for the BLET should lose his designation, due to alleged violations of DLC Rules of Conduct. On March 10, 2009, Rodzwicz approached that attorney in Little Rock, Ark., and solicited a payment from that attorney in exchange for allowing him to retain his DLC designation. The DLC attorney contacted the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. In subsequent meetings at the attorney's office in St. Louis, and at Harrah's Casino, Las Vegas, Rodzwicz solicited and agreed to accept a cash payment of $10,000 from the attorney, plus the promise of an additional cash payment of $10,000 after Rodzwicz allowed him to retain his designation. Rodzwicz accepted a cash payment from the attorney on April 28, 2009, in Las Vegas, and he sent a letter allowing the attorney to retain his designation on May 1, 2009. He accepted a second cash payment of $10,000 from the attorney on Sept. 16, 2009, in Kansas City, Mo."

The complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Missouri last week and remained suppressed until the arrest of Rodzwicz on Tuesday morning by agents with the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, at his home in Avon, Ohio.

The BLET is a national labor union with more than 55,000 members consisting of railroad employees throughout the U.S. It is a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Five years ago, the president of another railway labor union was found guilty on similar charges. As summarized by the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Labor, in a report to Congress: “The international president of the United Transportation Union (UTU) pled guilty to labor racketeering conspiracy charges in a scheme to extort bribes from attorneys in exchange for becoming or remaining designated legal counsel (DLC), a highly coveted position for attorneys who practice Federal Employers’ Liability Act cases.

He was ordered to forfeit $100,000 and agreed to resign as international president following his conviction. He admitted that he and the retired UTU international president, who pled guilty on related charges, used their positions to direct two UTU officials to solicit and collect over $525,000 in cash payments from 34 DLCs. The cash was then used for their campaigns and other special projects,” the report said.

Rodzwicz’s predecessor at the BLET, Don Hahs, was removedfrom office in March 2008 and fined nearly $45,000 by order of TeamstersPresident James Hoffa following recommendations of a Teamsters hearing panellooking into alleged improper activities. The panel concluded Hahs “violatedhis fiduciary duties to the BLET and its members in connection with the use andcontrol of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball tickets purchased with union funds,travel expenses for his wife, and other personal expenses, thereby bringingreproach upon the IBT in violation of the IBT Constitution.” He was notindicted on any criminal charges.


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