United States attorney Loretta E. Lynch: Hector Lopez turned the union members’ benefits fund into “a personal piggy bank, lining his pockets with the fruits of their labors.”
The former boss of an International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) union local in Long Island City, Queens, was arrested on Tuesday and accused of abusing his position through a host of illegal schemes, including taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a company he contracted to run the union’s health benefits plan, the New York Times reports:
Hector Lopez, the former president of Local 8a-28a, which represents metal polishers, sign painters and other tradespeople, set up an elaborate money-laundering operation involving several companies that funneled secret payments to him, according to a 29-page indictment that was unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
In the most serious kickback scheme, Mr. Lopez, 54, is accused of accepting $740,000 over a seven-year period in exchange for guaranteeing one company the contract to administer the union’s benefits fund. The indictment did not name Mr. Lopez’s alleged accomplices or the names of the companies involved.
The indictment also accuses Mr. Lopez, of Oakland, N.J., of accepting illegal cash payments in exchange for allowing one company to overbill the local for the costs of renovating its union hall in Long Island City.
In court Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Lopez pleaded not guilty to 15 charges, including conspiracy to embezzle from an employee benefit plan, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go released Mr. Lopez on $1 million bond and ordered his electronic monitoring.
The investigation was conducted by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service. In a written statement, Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney, said that Mr. Lopez turned the union members’ benefits fund into “a personal piggy bank, lining his pockets with the fruits of their labors.”