Ex-Philadelphia labor leader convicted of embezzling from union to pay for home renovations, meals

Dec 7, 2023, 12:30 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Former Philadelphia labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and a codefendant were convicted Thursday of using more than $650,000 in union funds for personal use, marking the second conviction federal prosecutors have secured against the long-powerful figure since a sweeping 2019 indictment.

Dougherty, who led Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for nearly three decades, was convicted of conspiracy, embezzlement and dozens of other charges by a jury after a monthlong trial. Prosecutors said he and codefendant Brian Burrows, Local 98′s former president, used the money for items including home renovations, concerts, groceries and even a cookie tray for the christening of a relative’s baby.

“This was a case where all the members who paid these people’s salaries basically had their pockets picked by them, and we’re glad we can finally hold them accountable,” U.S. Attorney Frank Costell was quoted as saying by The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported the verdict.

The jury deliberated over several days after hearing evidence that included government wiretap recordings. One witness, Anthony Massa, reportedly testified that he oversaw thousands of dollars in improvements at the Philadelphia home of Dougherty’s brother Kevin, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice. A lawyer for the justice later called the witness “an admitted liar.”

“It was a complicated case” Dougherty said after the verdict. “The jury elected to believe Tony Massa, and the case was over … Everything else just fell in line.”

Dougherty, 63, was previously convicted of bribery for keeping a city council member on the union payroll to help keep a tight grip on construction jobs. The former council member, Bobby Henon, is serving a 3 1/2 year prison term.

Defense lawyer Gregory Pagano attributed the spending to “negligence, not fraud” and said Dougherty — long a powerful player in Pennsylvania politics — believed “you have to spend money to make money.”

He said his client worked around the clock for the union.

Prosecutors asked that Dougherty be taken into custody after Thursday’s verdict, but U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl denied the request. He set a sentencing date in both of Dougherty’s cases for March 20, the same month he’s scheduled to face trial in a third case involving an extortion charge.

Dougherty and Burrows were each acquitted of three counts.

Burrows is to be sentenced on March 21.

National News

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Ex-Philadelphia labor leader convicted of embezzling from union to pay for home renovations, meals