The rap sheet for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers reads like something out of "Goodfellas."
Embezzlement. Wire fraud. Bribery. That's just scratching the surface of crimes committed by the IUOE ranks. And it is from this union that President Obama earlier this year picked one of his latest appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency tasked with resolving labor disputes between unions and management.
That recess appointee, Richard Griffin, was former general counsel for the 400,000-member union of heavy equipment operators -- a union tainted over the years by mob connections and a history of corruption.
Public documents obtained by Fox News show that more than 60 IUOE members have been arrested, indicted or jailed in the last decade on charges that include labor racketeering, extortion, criminal enterprise, bodily harm and workplace sabotage.
In some of the more egregious examples, federal prosecutors alleged in February 2003 that the Genovese and Colombo crime families wrested control of two IUOE locals, and stole $3.6 million from major New York area construction projects -- including the Museum of Modern Art and minor league baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets in Staten and Coney Islands.
Congress and the American public may never know whether Griffin's fiduciary responsibilities as general counsel were compromised by the avalanche of arrests, indictments and prosecutions of IUOE members. Griffin did not respond to Fox News' request for an interview. Before joining the NLRB, he served in various positions at the IUOE dating back to 1983.
But records indicate he did not take an active role in representing any of the accused union members in criminal matters while he was general counsel for the union.
In at least one case during Griffin's tenure, the IUOE national headquarters placed a local that had run afoul of the law into trusteeship. But it remains unclear what other firewalls, if any, Griffin erected to separate the national union from its corrupt locals, or how he dealt with individual local union members who were in legal trouble.
On April 9, 2008, a dozen high-ranking members of an IUOE local in Buffalo, N.Y., were arrested for damaging more than 40 pieces of heavy machinery at construction sites where non-union workers were hired. They poured sand into oil systems, and cut tires and fuel lines. They also ran the license plate numbers of victims through a state database to get personal information including the names and addresses of victims' wives.
Among the individual union members and associates prosecuted in various investigations were:
- Andrew Merola, a high-ranking member of the Gambino crime family who, in 2010, admitted to committing nine different acts of racketeering, including wire fraud involving a no-show/low-show job he got as an operating engineer for local 825 of the IUOE.
- James Roemer, a former treasurer of Operating Engineers local 14, who was sentenced in September 2003 to 41 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $2.7 million in restitution for conspiracy to fraudulently receive unlawful labor payments.
- Joel Waverly Cacace, Sr. The imprisoned acting boss of the Colombo crime family conspired with IUOE members to get a paid no-show construction job for his son, Jo-Jo Cacace, Jr. The senior Cacace was sent to prison in February 2003 for 20 years. The three-year investigation that sent him to jail also produced more than 24 other convictions.
Former U.S. Attorney and present New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prosecuted some of the IUOE criminal cases. In one of Christie's prosecutions, Kenneth Campbell, the former business manager of local 825 of the IUOE, pleaded guilty to embezzling $200,000 from his union and taking bribes from contractors to buy high-end electronics and a Lincoln Town Car for his father, a retired IUOE member.
'They treated local 825 like a piggy bank.'
- Then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, referring to members of an IUOE local
Then-U.S. Attorney Christie, said, "Campbell and his cronies were simply corrupt. They treated local 825 like a piggy bank at will to treat themselves to luxuries at the expense of dues-paying members they ripped off."
Because he was recess appointed, Richard Griffin, Jr., underwent no congressional scrutiny before he was sworn in on Jan. 9 of this year.
At the time of his recess appointment, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told the Wall Street Journal he was, "extremely disappointed" in Obama's decision to "avoid the constitutionally mandated Senate confirmation process." He said that two of three nominees for the NLRB, including Griffin, were submitted to the Senate on Dec. 15, just before the Senate was to adjourn, allowing only a day to review the nominees.
Griffin has been an advocate for enhanced NLRB power for decades.
In 1988 testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Employer/Employee relations, Griffin, who was then serving on the Board of Trustees of IUOE's Central Pension Fund, argued for more power for the NLRB to fine companies without a court order to enforce its rulings. He also argued against legislation that would have forced the NLRB and the Department of Labor to pay the legal costs for small businesses who won in court against unions.
Griffin's tenure on the NLRB will be longer than most recess appointees. The president delayed his appointment by one day until the start of a new congressional session -- effectively doubling to two years his stay. Recess appointments last until the end of the Senate's next session -- meaning Griffin will sit on the NLRB until December 2013.
Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent.