April 10, 2009: On April 6, former Local 743 President Richard Lopez went on trial for his part in a scheme to steal Local 743 elections and defraud the members of their right to vote.
Former union reps Thaddeus Bania and David Rodriguez also stood trial.
Testifying against them is former Teamster official Robert Walston, who pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme. Walston also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, which was his side-job while he was president of Local 743.
With help from Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), Local 743 working Teamsters exposed Walston’s plot. And in October 2007, Richard Berg and the New Leadership Slate swept the criminals out of office for good.
Walston’s 35-page plea agreement reads like an instruction manual on how to try to steal a Teamster election (and get caught). Their actions included: u Examining past election voter records to determine which members were unlikely to vote, as targets for ballot-diversion.
Secretly changing the addresses of members, and utilizing the TITAN database terminal at the local union to divert ballots to friends, relatives, and employers.
Collecting said ballots and then marking them while wearing latex gloves and using multiple pens, then mailing them at various mailboxes and on different days.
Fraudulently obtaining a key to the postal box for undeliverable ballots, and illegally making a copy of the key to steal those ballots and vote them.
Using the pretense of an election protest to stop the ballot count and invalidate the election, while Richard Berg was ahead of Walston in the count.
Calling the election supervisor to give members’ names and social security numbers, but the addresses of cronies, to illegally obtain additional ballots. Despite all those stolen ballots (as detailed in his plea agreement), they could barely beat the rank-and-file challengers in the 2004 election, in which they had to run twice. Working with committed members, TDU has the know-how to defeat election fraud.
Their actions were ratified by Chicago Joint Council 25 and the International, which refused to investigate or overturn the bogus election. Walston, Lopez and his gang were key Hoffa supporters.
According to the guilty plea agreement, Walston will serve about 5 years in prison, and make restitution to Local 743 in an amount determined by the judge. He also agreed to testify against his co-defendants if they choose to go to trial.
The Justice Department contends that the officials embezzled $2.2 million from Local 743, in the form of their illegally-obtained salaries and perks.
Walston’s cocaine trafficking plea implicates another conspirator, Victor Matos, the cousin of one of Walston’s business agents. He was caught in Texas with $135,000 in cash, which Walston intended to use to buy cocaine and transport it back to Chicago.
“For years, members weren’t paying attention, and our officials were getting away with stealing our elections, stealing our dues, and more,” said Gail Isenberg, a working Teamster in Local 743.
“We changed that. We gave members information and got them to pay attention. That’s how we got these crooks out of office.”