PHILADELPHIA - John Dougherty, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98's business manager, was arrested by federal authorities Wednesday after he was indicted on charges alleging he threatened a contractor.
Dougherty, also known as 'Johnny Doc,' and his nephew, union member Gregory Fiocca, were both named in the new 19-count indictment, which includes 18 counts of extortion and one conspiracy count.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, authorities laid out allegations that Dougherty and Fiocca "used force, violence, and threats of violence and economic harm to extort salary payments for Fiocca for an electrical contracting firm as payment for work Fiocca did not actually perform."
The indictment also alleges that in late 2019, Dougherty appointed Fiocca to be the Local 98 job steward at a work site for the contracting company. Authorities say that for much of the following year, Fiocca frequently did not show up for work at the site, was not at his assigned work station, and did not complete the tasks assigned to him. As a result, the indictment alleges that Fiocca was sometimes paid for less than forty hours of work per week.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jennifer Arbittier Williams says the situation took a turn in July 2020 when Fiocca confronted the project manager at the site, another Local 98 employee, about his paychecks. On Aug. 19, 2020, authorities say Fiocca escalated from verbal confrontation to violence when he assaulted the project manager and threatened further violence unless his paychecks were increased to reflect 40 hours, and efforts to hold him accountable for those hours were eliminated.
John Dougherty, who leads the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, been indicted on embezzlement and fraud charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the conspiracy charge filed against came after Dougherty himself then allegedly contacted the owner of the contracting company and "made escalating threats of economic harm."
"Dougherty is alleged to have threatened that he would no longer allow Local 98 electricians working for that company to work overtime, that he would force the company to operate three shifts of electricians on the job, hat he would potentially pull all electricians from the company's job site, and that he might just try to prevent the company from securing another large job in Philadelphia," the acting U.S. Attorney said.
The 18 counts of extortion represent the 18 paychecks received by Fiocca bi-weekly from Aug. 2020 through Jan. 2021.
Union officials say Dougherty was arrested Wednesday at his Center City home and detained at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Philadelphia offices.
Defense lawyer Hank Hockheimer said he was "surprised and disappointed" that Dougherty was arrested at home Wednesday while caring for his ill wife.
"As with the other charges, we will confront these in court," he said in a statement.
Dougherty leads the IBEW Local 98, with 5,000 members, along with the city's Building Trades Council, an umbrella group with more than 70,000 members. He has been at the helm of the century-old electricians union for 25 years.
Wednesday's arrest follows previous FBI raids at the union's headquarters and Dougherty's South Philadelphia home back in 2016. At the time, investigators also searched City Hall and district offices belonging to Councilmember Bobby Henon.
In Feb. 2019, Dougherty was indicted on embezzlement and fraud charges, along with Henon and six others.
The 2019 indictment accuses Dougherty of keeping Councilman Bobby Henon on the union payroll to push his agenda at City Hall. He and Henon are set for trial in May on those charges. Dougherty and others also face a separate trial, as yet unscheduled, on embezzlement and other charges in the 116-count indictment. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
According to the same indictment, Dougherty used union credit cards to buy groceries and household goods and to splurge on restaurants, and let others in his orbit do the same. He allegedly used union funds to pay contractors for work at his South Philadelphia home and bar. He also put friends and family members on the union's payroll, showering them with raises and overtime for hours they didn't work and using them to do personal tasks, prosecutors said.
Councilman Bobby Henon, a former union official, got a $70,000 union salary to press Dougherty's interests at City Hall, officials said in the unsealed indictment. Henon has been accused of using his office to pressure Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Comcast Corp., and others to use union labor, prosecutors said at the time.
Henon, a Democrat, has remained on council while under indictment. He has also pleaded not guilty and remains free on bond.
In Oct. 2020, the FBI conducted another raid of union headquarters, about a week after it was announced the bribery trial involving Dougherty and Henon had been postponed.
The union over the years has emerged as a major political donor, spending tens of millions of dollars through its political action committees, mostly to help Democrats in Pennsylvania.
Union officials released the following statement following Dougherty's arrest Wednesday:
"In the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 3, 2021, federal law enforcement authorities arrested long-time IBEW Local 98 Business Manager John J. Dougherty at his place of residence in Center City Philadelphia. He is currently being detained at the FBI's Philadelphia offices, though we expect him to be released this afternoon. At this point in time, we have no information as to the reason for the arrest. This federal investigation of John Dougherty has been going on almost from the day John was sworn in as IBEW Local 98 Business Manager in 1993. In August of 2016, the FBI conducted surprise searches of IBEW Local 98's union hall and offices, as well as John's private residence. In the early morning hours of January 2019, John was arrested by federal authorities at his home and charged in a 116-count federal indictment. In October 2020, federal agents once again descended upon IBEW Local 98 and John's private residence. Today, after John just returned home after spending 12 days at his seriously ill wife Ceilie's bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of Jefferson Hospital, they descended again upon John and Ceilie"s home and arrested him again. This isn't a prosecution, it's a persecution."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
DOWNLOAD: FOX 29 NEWS APP