National Maritime Union Pension Plan Official Sentenced For Receiving Kickbacks, Reports U.S. Attorney.
United States Attorney Donald K. Stern announced that NICHOLAS LAFORGIA, 72 years old, of 151-38 24th Avenue, Whitestone, New York, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris to 3 years' probation, the first year of which must be served in home confinement with electronic monitoring, and a $30,000 fine. LAFORGIA will also be required to return the proceeds of his crime pursuant to agreements with the National Maritime Union Employee Pension and Welfare Plan and the individuals who made the payments to LAFORGIA. LAFORGIA pled guilty in May of this year to an Information that charged him with receiving kickbacks and other things of value in connection with his position as a Union Benefit Plan Official.
At previous hearings before Judge Saris, a federal prosecutor told the court that had the case proceeded to trial the government would have proven that as the Director of Training of the National Maritime Union Employee Pension and Welfare Plan ("the Plan"), LAFORGIA's responsibilities included determining when and where Union members would receive certain training mandated by the Coast Guard.
In late 1996, LAFORGIA contacted the owners of Northeast Maritime Institute in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Northeast provides the classes and other training necessary for maritime workers to receive their Coast Guard certifications. LAFORGIA arranged for Union members to attend classes at Northeast, and subsequently handled all negotiations between Northeast and the Plan.
Shortly after the first classes attended by Union members, LAFORGIA began requesting that the owner of Northeast purchase items for LAFORGIA. These items, which the government contends had a value of approximately $237,000, were accepted by LAFORGIA in exchange for his continuing to send Union members to Northeast for training. Such items included jewelry, airline tickets, electronic and stereo equipment, computers and liquor.
In November 1998, one of the owners of Northeast told LAFORGIA that he would no longer purchase items for LAFORGIA in exchange for the Plan's business. LAFORGIA canceled previously scheduled classes at Northeast, and no Union members have attended any subsequent classes at Northeast.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Investigations, and is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Pearlstein and Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison D. Burroughs of Stern's Economic Crimes Unit.