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Former Construction Union Chief Pleads Guilty To Taking Bribes From Contractor


Ex-construction union boss James Cahill is facing up to two decades in prison after pleading guilty to taking bribes and illegal cash payments, in what prosecutors say reveals a “shocking” level of corruption among labor officials.

Cahill, the former president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, accepted around $44,500 in bribes from an unnamed contractor, according to court filings from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. In his plea, he admitted to having previously taken about $100K from the same unnamed construction company.

Cahill and 10 other union officials entered guilty pleas in the scheme. He was indicted back in 2020 on charges of racketeering, bribery and fraud, The Real Deal reported.  

The defendants, due to be sentenced in federal court next year, took cash from the company stuffed into envelopes that were handed over in restaurant bathrooms, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Cahill was the leader of the scheme, according to the indictment, and made the introductions between many of his co-defendants and the unidentified contractor.

The cash payments were made to garner union support for bids on projects, as well as the officials agreeing to lie to developers and falsely claim the contractor was using union workers. The offenses took place between 2018 and 2020.

“These convictions highlight a shocking level of corruption among powerful labor officials in New York State. Through their greed and self-dealing, these defendants betrayed the hard-working members of their respective unions, and undermined the protections meant to be afforded by organized labor,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement. “While their members were performing difficult work at job sites throughout the region, these defendants sold out their membership by accepting bribes and cash payments in restaurant bathrooms.”

Cahill, in his time as union leader, pushed for the prevailing wage requirement on some projects financed with taxpayer funds and worked out the Tappan Zee Bridge labor agreement, per TRD. Gary LaBarbera, the longtime president of the Greater New York chapter of the BTC, assumed the statewide mantle last year following Cahill's indictment.