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Borough union members bilked contractors: feds

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A Middle Village man who used to be vice president of a Whitestone-based elevator operators’ union was one of 27 people indicted for allegedly scamming construction companies out of millions of dollars from no-show jobs, federal prosecutors announced last Thursday.

The alleged scheme, which prosecutors believe lasted from 1989 to 2001, depended on fake time sheets and extortion in the theft of over $6 million dollars from contractors, according to prosecutors.

Charles Novak, a former vice president of the International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local One, and David Coakley of Whitestone are among seven people charged with operating a racketeering enterprise, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District said.

Local One enters in collective bargaining agreements with major city contractors requiring that union members be hired to operate the temporary elevator cars used on construction sites.

Representatives of Local One, which is based in Whitestone, did not return a telephone message requesting comment.

Novak, 65, of 82-11 62nd Ave., and Coakley, 59, who has a Whitestone postal box, allegedly submitted time sheets claiming elevator operators worked at hours when they actually did not, officials said. Prosecutors believe they and others pocketed those wages, some of which were stashed in a bank account that ultimately received more than 1,400 checks totaling $1.5 million.

Borough union members charged with participating in the scheme by allowing their names to be used for the no-show jobs include Paul Downey, 51, of 232-04 88th Ave. in Queens Village; Karen Gordan, 37, of 47-14 197th St. in Bayside; and Steven Seidl, 39, of 35-42 205th St. in Bayside, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The no-show operators sometimes served as chauffeurs for Novak and other union representatives while on the contractors’ payroll, prosecutors said, while others had full-time jobs at the time — including Seidl, an employee of St. John’s University.

The alleged scheme is believed to have cost city contractors more than $3 million in wages paid for work that was never done, with the total theft hitting more than $6 million, including withholding taxes and contributions to benefit plans.

Novak and others are also accused of extorting payments from contractors that did not use union labor by threatening to disrupt their work sites, prosecutors said.

“The acts of the individuals from Local One are appalling,” city Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “As all New Yorkers are working toward rebuilding the city, it is despicable that members of Local One participated in such corrupt activities.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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