BUFFALO, N.Y.– Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Gerald H. Franz, Jr., 54, of Eden, New York, who was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, was sentenced to time served by Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. He was further ordered to pay, jointly and severally with his codefendants, restitution in the amount of over $890,000.00.
Franz was the eighth and final defendant, of the twelve members of International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 17, AFL-CIO (Local 17) charged in a 2008 Superseding Indictment, to be convicted and sentenced. Four Local 17 members charged in the Superseding Indictment were found not guilty following a jury trial.
The Local 17 members charged were alleged to have acted, between January 1997 and December 2007, as a criminal enterprise by extorting and attempting to extort construction contractors doing business in Western New York.
Among those Franz and others extorted or attempted to extort were Zoldaz Construction, in connection with that company’s efforts to demolish certain homes in Buffalo and to perform work at the Dunkirk Landfill in Pomfret, New York, and the Wadsworth Golf Construction Company, in connection with that company’s golf course construction efforts in Orchard Park and Cheektowaga, New York. The acts of extortion and attempted extortion committed by Franz and Local 17 members included damaging the heavy equipment of one of the companies by pouring sand into the oil box of such equipment, and making various threats to employees and representatives of such companies.
Earlier this year in August, Local 17’s former president and business manager, Mark Kirsch, was sentenced principally to three years in prison by Judge Skretny. At that time, Skretny noted how the Local 17’s activities had far-reaching consequences on the region. “I think it set back the development of the Western New York business community for decades,” Skretny said. “It slowed good job opportunities instead of creating good job opportunities.”
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of Labor, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Cheryl Garcia; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam Cohen; and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Steven Nigrelli.