Chitown Daily News: Chicago Officials Used Wedding Invites for Fraud

April 17, 2009: Teamster Mark Jones gave his wedding list to his boss thinking it would be used for fundraising in a local union election.

But the folks on that list, who would usually get Christmas cards and invitations to Halloween parties and summer barbecues from Jones and his wife, started getting union election ballots sent to their homes.

Jones, who has pleaded guilty in a wide-ranging scheme that included efforts to steal two Teamsters Local 743 elections in 2004, testified yesterday that he had no idea the former union president, Robert Walston, who has also pleaded guilty, would use those addresses to later file ballots on behalf of his slate.

Jones, Walston and Cassandra Mosley, a former business agent, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a trial of three of their former associates.

The federal trial of Richard Lopez, former recording-secretary, David Rodriguez, former organizer, and Thaddeus Bania, the local’s former comptroller, concluded its second week Thursday.

Prosecutors continued calling witnesses who said they received ballots at their homes and offices that at least one of the accused men would later retrieve. Prosecutors have argued that some of those ballots were cast in December of 2004, tipping the balance in favor of the incumbent Unity Slate.

Another man, Elias Nevarez, of Berkeley, testified that he was asked by Lopez in 2004 for his address after which multiple envelopes containing secret ballots arrived at his home. He lied about the mail during an initial visit by investigators from the Department of Labor, but testified that he ultimately confessed Lopez had approached him at a Melrose Park pool hall, asking him to retrieve the envelopes.

On Wednesday, prosecutors also questioned others who were unknowingly part of the scheme as changes of address in the master database allegedly permitted sending multiple ballots to a few locations and allowing slate members to collect and later mark them as validly cast votes.

Jose Diego Najeda Herrera Cabrales, a retired machine operator and member of Local 743, was asked by Asst. U.S. attorney Nathalina Hudson if he had ever seen the envelopes mailed to others at his address.

"No," he responded.

Had he ever requested ballots be sent to his address in those names, Hudson asked.

"No," he responded.

Had he ever voted in the 2004 election?

Cabrales said he didn't know there ever was an election.

Prosecutors have introduced dozens of envelopes as evidence in the trial of Lopez, Bania, and Rodriguez. Lopez was among the candidates who secured victory back in December 2004 after allegedly misdirecting ballots.

Hudson showed Cabrales and at least three other Hispanic workers envelopes that were addressed to their homes. All testified that they knew nothing about them.

Several, including two women who say they worked as janitors at a cleaning service operated by Rodriguez, said he told them mail would arrive at their homes. One of the women said through an interpreter that she cleaned the houses of former president Walston as well as the headquarters of the local.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday and could end as early as next week.

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