Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are SEIU's D.C. Officials Next in Line after Tyrone Freeman's Conviction?

The Purple Palace in D.C.

Sources report that the top officials at SEIU’s headquarters are extremely anxious following the conviction of Tyrone Freeman, their longtime ally, on 14 criminal counts in federal court.

The officials apparently fear that the feds will quickly pivot from their conviction of Freeman in order to pursue a fresh round of indictments against SEIU officials who aided and abetted Freeman’s crime spree.

Who’s on the feds’ list? Tasty believes it includes Andy Stern, Mary Kay Henry, Eliseo Medina, Tom Woodruff, Dave Regan, Dave Kieffer, Steve Trossman, Rickman Jackson and Sheila Velasco.

So what do we know about these officials’ roles in the Freeman corruption scandal?

A number of key facts are already documented in sworn testimony delivered by an SEIU official named Jim Philliou. In a 212-page deposition, Philliou testified that he informed SEIU officials about Freeman’s corruption in 2001-- a full seven years before Freeman was busted by the Los Angeles Times! In fact, Philliou was so convinced about Freeman’s corruption that, back in 2001, he refused to continue co-signing Freeman’s checks on behalf of his higher-ups at SEIU.

Last summer, the feds told the Wall Street Journal they were actively conducting “a continuing investigation” into SEIU officials and “declined to comment on whether any other SEIU officials would be charged” given that their investigation of the SEIU corruption scnadal was still underway.  

In 2010, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the FBI was investigating SEIU’s Andy Stern for his role in corruption inside SEIU. Here’s how the article began:

WASHINGTON — The FBI and the U.S. Labor Department are investigating prominent labor leader Andy Stern in their probe of corruption at the Service Employees International Union, according to two people who have been interviewed by federal agents.

Meanwhile, Freeman is set to be sentenced on April 22. That gives him three months to rat out higher-up SEIU officials in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Why didn't Freeman expose the SEIU officials during his trial?

The explanation may lie in speculation that SEIU cut a deal to buy Freeman’s silence during the trial in exchange for cash to pay his attorneys.

Here’s what Tasty knows…

During the trial, Freeman surprised observers when he appeared in court with three super-expensive attorneys at his side. Each of the attorneys charges at least $1,500 per hour. One was flown in from Washington, DC. A second parachuted in from Chicago. Who are they? Here’s a court document with their names and info.

Kelly Kramer
Two of the attorneys work for Mayer Brown, a global law firm with offices in 20 cities across the world. Kelly Kramer is a co-chair of the firm’s “White Collar Defense” unit and has defended senior White House staffers and a US Congressman in criminal investigations, according to his biography. Kramer also defends business execs in Europe, Asia and South America.

Meanwhile, William Michael Jr. is a former Assistant US Attorney (that is, a federal prosecutor) who switched sides and now defends executives involved in “complex federal white collar and regulatory defense, civil and criminal health care fraud, antitrust and complex internal investigations.” And… he’s a former Green Beret, according to this press release.
William Michael, Jr.

In other words, these ain’t no dime-store lawyers. They’re top-dollar attorneys who usually work for fatcat business execs and big-time politicians.

So… how can Freeman afford these attorneys?

He can’t. Freeman reportedly has very little money after being forced to pay off huge settlements resulting from multiple civil lawsuits against him. And he’s not earning much money these days by selling vitamins and cigars at golf courses.

Meanwhile, his wife -- Pilar Planells -- owes $130,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest to the IRS as part of her plea deal with the feds, which allowed her to escape criminal prosecution. In fact, during Freeman’s recent ten-day trial, Planells was represented by a public defender because she apparently couldn’t afford a private attorney.
So who’s paying for Freeman’s fancy-pants attorneys? Tasty believes it’s SEIU.

And why would SEIU officials agree to pay Freeman’s bills? To buy his silence during the trial. Tasty can practically hear the telephone conversation between Freeman and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry that inked this dirty deal:
Tyrone:  Mary Kay, we got a situation over here. I’m going on trial soon, and my wife is telling me I should just throw you and Andy under the bus so I can stay out of jail.
Mary Kay:  Oh yeah?
Tyrone:  Listen. Your hands are just as dirty as mine. And if I get up there on the stand, I can sing like a birdie. Name names. It’s not gonna be pretty. The whole Purple Palace will end up in the pen.
Mary Kay: I get it. So what do you want?
Tyrone: I need help so I can stay out of jail. Have you ever thought about spending years of your life in a federal penitentiary?
Mary Kay:  Okay… How about this? We’ll hire the best lawyers in the whole country to defend you. Top notch attorneys. We’ll pay all the bills. But... you can’t say a single word about me or Andy or any of us at SEIU. And if I even get a whiff that you’re gonna turn state’s evidence, we’ll pull those attorneys so fast it’ll make your head spin. Understand?
Tyrone: It’s a deal.

So… if that’s how the deal went down, the next big question is whether SEIU officials continue to hold enough leverage over Freeman in order to keep him quiet. Meanwhile, what kind of deal will prosecutors offer to Freeman so that he blows the whistle on his Purple Palace pals?  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Los Angeles Times on Conviction of SEIU's Tyrone Freeman

The Los Angeles Times has published a longer article on yesterday's guilty verdict against SEIU's Tyrone Freeman on 14 criminal counts.

The article includes quotes from NUHW president Sal Rosselli and a homecare worker who's a member of SEIU. Here's a link to NUHW's statement on Freeman's conviction. And here's the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the jury's guilty verdict.

Finally, here are some excerpts from the latest LA Times article. (This is a link to the full article.)

Los Angeles Times

Ex-SEIU local exec convicted of stealing from low-income members

By Paul Pringle and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times

January 28, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

A onetime rising star in national labor circles who headed California's biggest union local was convicted Monday on federal charges that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from his low-income members.

Tyrone Freeman, who represented about 190,000 homecare workers as a leader of the Service Employees International Union, was found guilty on 14 counts after a 10-day trial in Los Angeles.

Jurors deliberated two and a half days before returning their verdict. The trial followed a nearly four-year investigation triggered by a series of Times reports on Freeman's financial practices.

"This was a case about abuse and betrayal," U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said in a statement after the verdict. "Freeman abused his position as leader of the SEIU, and he betrayed the hardworking people whose interests he was supposed to represent."

Freeman, 43, faces a maximum of more than 180 years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing in April. His attorneys declined to comment.

Monday's verdict marks the end of a steep fall from grace for a man groomed for a major role in the SEIU, the 2-million-member labor juggernaut that is a dominant force in worker organizing campaigns and Democratic elections from coast to coast.

As president of SEIU Local 6434 and an affiliated chapter of homecare workers, Freeman carried significant clout in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., because he commanded deep sources of campaign money and foot soldiers.

In August, he was indicted on charges of embezzling from his statewide local of mostly $9-an-hour workers and using some of the stolen money to cover costs from his Hawaiian wedding. Other charges were mail fraud, violation of tax laws and giving false information to a mortgage lender…

At the time, Freeman's annual compensation was about $200,000, making him one of the higher-paid union leaders in the nation…

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, FBI and Internal Revenue Service. It began after The Times reported in August 2008 that Freeman funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars of his members' dues, and money from a related charity, to his relatives. He also spent freely on a Four Seasons Resort golf tournament, expensive restaurants and a Beverly Hills cigar club…

The Freeman case also helped widened a division within SEIU's California ranks. Officials of a local headquartered in the Bay Area broke away from the parent union and formed a rival organization after resisting a merger that they said would have placed their members under Freeman's control.

"When union bosses get all the power and they're not accountable to their members, it leads to the corruption that is spelled out today in the conviction of Tyrone Freeman," said Sal Rosselli, president of the rival group, the National Union of Healthcare Workers…

The verdict was cheered by Local 6434 members such as Raquel Toribio, 69, a Monterey County homecare worker paid to look after her son, who has Down syndrome. "I'm very happy to hear Freeman's going to pay for what he stole," she said. "It has been a long time." …

Monday, January 28, 2013

Source: GUILTY on All Counts for SEIU's Tyrone Freeman!

Breaking news! Just moments ago, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against SEIU's Tyrone Freeman on all counts, according to a very reliable source.

Tasty hears that the U.S. Attorney's Office will issue a press release during the next 45-60 minutes. Tasty will publish the press release when it's available. Stay tuned!

P.S. Do you like poetic justice? Well check this out. Today's guilty verdict was rendered against corrupt SEIU officials on the anniversary of NUHW's founding:  January 28th!

Excerpt from Press Release Issued by Federal Prosecutors:

“This was a case about abuse and betrayal,” said U.S. Attorney AndrĂ© Birotte Jr. of Los Angeles. “Freeman abused his position as leader of the SEIU, and he betrayed the hardworking people whose interests he was supposed to represent."

Freeman, 43, who is currently residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, seven counts of embezzlement and/or theft of labor union assets, one count of making a false statement to a federally insured financial institution, and two counts of subscribing to a false tax return.

Freeman is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Audrey B. Collins on April 22.

Former SEIU union local president convicted of embezzlement

January 28, 2013 |  5:13 pm

The former president of California’s largest union local was found guilty by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Monday of stealing from the low-wage workers he represented.

Tyrone Freeman, who led Local 6434 of the Service Employees International Union, was convicted on 14 criminal counts, including embezzlement of union funds, violating tax laws and mail fraud.

As president of SEIU Local 6434 -- the second-largest SEIU chapter in the nation -- Freeman, 43, represented 160,000 low-wage healthcare workers who cared for the elderly and people with disabilities. He also represented 30,000 workers as president of the California United Homecare Workers.

Prosecutors accused Freeman of billing the union for “elaborate personal expenses,” including more than $8,000 in costs related to his 2006 wedding in Honolulu, according to court documents.

Freeman ostensibly was marrying Pilar Planells, his executive assistant at the union local. But at the time of the wedding, he was still married to his first wife, according to a trial memorandum filed by the prosecution earlier this month.

Planells pleaded guilty earlier this year to an income tax charge in connection with more than $540,000 she received in consulting payments from the union.

The charges against Freeman grew out of a series of Times reports regarding Freeman’s financial dealings while leading SEIU Local 6434. The Times reported that Freeman funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ union dues and money from an affiliated charity to his relatives.

Freeman stepped down from his job in 2008, shortly after The Times' report.

-- Hailey Branson-Potts