Ex-Union Top Brass Sentenced in Big-League Embezzlement Case: Unveiling a Local Scandal Shrouded in Conspiracy and Corruption

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — Former Union President, Brian Burrows, has been sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted on charges originating from a grand embezzlement scheme. 64-year-old Burrows, from Mount Laurel, NJ, is going to face three years of probation after serving his term, and has been ordered to forfeit over $135,000, with an additional special assessment of $1,800. Burrows is also obligated to pay an undisclosed amount of restitution linked to his crimes.

As the President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 98), since 2008, Burrows was second only to his co-defendant, Business Manager John Dougherty. In 2019, a federal grand jury accused the pair, along with other union officers and employees, of a coordinated theft and misuse of an estimated $600,000 of Local 98’s funds spanning from 2010 to 2016. They are also believed to have concealed their crime by falsifying labor management reports, and not declaring the illicit funds in their tax returns.

Fast forward to December 2023, the law finally caught up with the duo, as a federal jury found them guilty of a conspiracy to embezzle the union’s funds. Burrows faced additional charges, including 13 counts of embezzling Local 98’s money, causing false statements on annual Department of Labor required filings for two years, manipulating the books and records of Local 98, and filing fraudulent federal income tax returns. The list of misdeeds committed by Burrows is extensive, including unauthorized use of about $391,000 of the union’s fund for renovating his residence, the homes of his co-defendants and commercial properties owned by them, and even the houses of Dougherty’s family members.

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Not far behind, Dougherty was convicted on 33 counts of embezzling the union’s funds, committing 24 wire frauds intending to defraud Local 98 of its resources, making false statements on required annual official filings for two years, manipulating the union’s books and records, and filing fraudulent federal tax returns.

Other union officers and employees implicated in the grand jury indictment confessed to their crimes in 2022 and have already faced their sentencing this year. These include Michael Neill, the ex-Director of Local 98’s Apprentice Training Fund; Marita Crawford, the former Political Director of Local 98; and two employees of Local 98, Niko Rodriguez and Brian Fiocca. The day of reckoning for Dougherty has been scheduled for July 11.

“The members of a union should be able to trust their leadership,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “They have every right to expect that their officers will act in their best interests and that their dues will be used for their benefit. That wasn’t the case at Local 98, where Brian Burrows violated his duty to his members for his own benefit and allowed his codefendants to do the same. Burrows stole from the hardworking electricians whose dues paid his salary, took deliberate steps to conceal it, and is now being held appropriately accountable.”

“In serving himself over the members of Local 98, Brian Burrows abused his position as the president of the Union and breached the trust of those whom he was elected to serve. Today’s sentence makes it clear that this kind of self-dealing at the expense of others will not be tolerated,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain unwavering in our commitment to upholding the integrity of labor unions for the members who rely on them, and bringing to justice those who exploit them.”

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“Anyone contemplating cheating on their taxes should know that IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents work tirelessly, year-round, to investigate tax and financial crimes,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Denise Leuenberger. “The outcome today is due to the dedicated efforts of IRS Criminal Investigation special agents and our law enforcement partners.”

The joint efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s various branches made the investigation possible. The Pennsylvania State Police also contributed, along with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. The case is currently in the hands of the United States Assistant Attorneys, pushing to bring the accused to justice. The case continues to unfold, laying bare a scandal involving conspiracy, corruption, and the misuse of Union funds.

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