Four former Teamsters union leaders were charged Wednesday with using their clout at the city’s two convention centers to shake down businesses through “intimidation and fear” while using brute force against rank-and-file union members who resisted their tight control over the South Boston union.
The four former Local 82 leaders are:
■ John Perry, 60, of Woburn.
■ Joseph “Jo Jo” Burhoe, 44, of Braintree.
■ James “Jimmy the Bull” Deamicis, 49, of Quincy.
■ Thomas Flaherty, 49, of Braintree.
They were charged in a 30-count federal indictment with racketeering, conspiracy to extort, extortion, attempted extortion, mail fraud, prohibition against certain persons holding office, and theft of government money, according to the office of the US attorney, Carmen M. Ortiz.
Perry, who is Local 82’s former boss, and Flaherty appeared in US District Court in Boston Wednesday and were released on a $100,000 secured bond and a $50,000 unsecured bond, respectively.
They are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
The other defendants, Burhoe and Deamicis, entered not-guilty pleas and were ordered to be held because of their “danger and risk of flight.” Burhoe served time in jail on bank robbery charges during the last decade.
The defendants and three of their four attorneys could not be reached for comment.
Thomas Butters, Perry’s attorney, said that his client denies the charges and will fight them in court.
“John Perry has done a tremendous amount of good for the the union and [its] employers,” Butters said.
Local 82 leaders formed a virtual gang within the union, called the Perry Crew, and threatened business people who would not cooperate with them, and assaultied two union members who challenged their leadership of the local.
The indictment accused the Perry Crew of engaging in illegal activities to reap a profit for the group’s members, friends, and relatives.
The men also allegedly tried to extort money from Boston hotels, event planners, catering companies, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, music entertainment outfits, and nonprofit organizations, none of which had collective bargaining agreements with Local 82.
The indictment did not name any of the companies or institutions.
“The Perry Crew approached these entities and allegedly threatened to picket and disrupt business, sometimes just hours before an event, if the entity did not accede to the Perry Crew’s demand for unwanted, unnecessary, and superfluous jobs for themselves, their friends and family,” Ortiz’s office said in a statement.
“Payment was demanded for these unnecessary ‘jobs,’ although contributions were not made to the benefit [union] funds.”
Ortiz said the wide-ranging charges send a signal that federal authorities won’t tolerate thuggish behavior toward businesses.
“It is critical that local companies and nonprofit organizations be able to engage in business activities without fear of extortion from individuals whose goal is to line their own pockets,” she said in a statement.
Local 82’s workers were not employees of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Instead, they were hired by private companies putting on events. Primarily, they loaded and unloaded trucks carrying exhibit materials and other equipment.
Besides providing labor for conventions, Local 82 had workers throughout the city handling moving jobs for other companies.
James Rooney, executive director of the Convention Center Authority, declined to comment on the indictments.
But in previous comments on Local 82 — a group that has long been controversial — Rooney emphasized that the authority is not the direct employer of union workers.
Prosecutors also accused the Perry Crew of using and threatening to use violence to maintain their power at Local 82.
At least two rank-and-file members who disagreed with the Perry Crew were assaulted, according to the indictment, while in other instances the local’s leaders prevented certain union members from getting jobs or from having a voice in union elections and other matters.
“The defendants allegedly went so far as to prey on their own, threatening their own members with violence if they complained about not getting work,” Boston’s police commissioner, Edward Davis, said in a statement.
“These indictments send a powerful message: Boston is not a pay-to-play city. Working with our federal partners, we will continue to aggressively go after those who think they are above the law.”
If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison on some of the racketeering charges. They also could be fined up to $250,000 on each of the 30 counts.
In the past, the union local came under fire for hiring convicts right out of prison, including the younger brother of the gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, as well as a former organized crime associate and convicted killer.
The Teamsters local was so ridden with controversy in recent years that the national Teamsters Union effectively abolished it, earlier this year forcing Local 82 to merge into Teamsters Local 25 of Charlestown.
Local 82 had about 700 members, but Local 25 has an estimated 11,000.
Wednesday, David Levin, an organizer at Teamsters for a Democratic Union — a Teamsters group that seeks changes — blasted the national union president, James T. Hoffa, for not cracking down hard enough on Perry, who was also the director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ national trade-show unit when complaints were first aired about his leadership at Local 82.
“A lot of damage and harm could have been avoided if Hoffa had heeded those complaints,” Levin said.
In a statement, Hoffa’s office said that he acted swiftly and properly to address problems at Local 82.
The statement also noted that Perry has been expelled from the union.