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NBC 10 I-Team: Union secretary pleads not guilty to embezzlement charges

Richard D'Antuono, pictured here, walks out of federal court after pleading not guilty to two embezzlement charges. (WJAR)

An officer tasked with one union’s finances faced a federal judge on Tuesday afternoon after he was indicted on three, federal criminal charges.

Richard D’ Antuono, business manager and financial secretary of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association Local 40, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Providence before Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond after investigators said he allegedly swindled more than $250,000 in union funds from October 2015 through September 2017. He appeared before the judge with his attorney and was released.

D’Antuono, 42, was charged with embezzlement from a labor organization, embezzlement from an employee benefit plan and identity theft, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams, who prosecuted the case.

He faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $260,0000 and six years of supervised release on the two embezzlement charges. On the identity theft charge, he faces a mandatory term of two years in prison which must be served in addition to then sentencing on the embezzlement charges.

D'Antuono had nothing to say after he left federal court, but his attorney, John Bevilacqua, told NBC 10 News that his client intends to change his plea to guilty and that an apology to labor union members will be made by his client, if one hasn't been made already.

"That will come," Bevilacqua said as he left the courthouse.

The Cranston resident allegedly began embezzling from the 93-member union in 2015 by stealing funds from the union’s apprentice and operation accounts. Funds in the apprentice account were slated to finance training programs for apprentice plasterers and masons or to pay for refresher classes for existing union members.

The union has eight listed employees, but only one full-time, paid union officer, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). That’s Richard D’Antuono.

D’Antuono allegedly wrote checks out to himself in excess of his salary, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. He also allegedly embezzled funds from the union’s operational account by asking the authorized signatories to sign blank checks.

In one instance, he allegedly forged the signature of other people. Information documents filed in court alleges D'Antuono, during and in retaliation to the felony embezzlement and theft offense, knowingly signed other people's names on a check for $21,000 from the union's apprenticeship fund account. Those signatures were A.D. and R.M., according to Almond.

Anthony D’Antuono was the union’s business manager for 11 years beginning in 2004 earning between $64,000 - $84,000, depending on the year. It wasn’t until 2016 that Richard took over the role.

Both Anthony and Richard D’Antunono, business manager and president respectively, were notified by the OLMS of violations in recording keeping after a 2010 audit. In a letter to both men, investigators said the union did not report lost salary wages, the purchase of jackets totaling $2,683 and neglected to provide receipts for travel and entertainment expenses after a trip to Washington, D.C.

D'Antuono was released on $10,000 bond with conditions. Those conditions included seeking substance abuse treatment, being evaluated by a mental health professional (if determined by probation that he needs one) and notifying probation of any encounter with law enforcement (arrests etc). D'Antunono, who told the judge he was not employed, said he is in the process of seeking disability.

Other union embezzlement

In January 2012, Kenneth Aurecchia, former regional vice president of the Plumbers International Union and former business manager for Plumbers Local 51 in East Providence pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $107,515 and one count of filing a false tax return in the amount of $17,886. He was subsequently sentenced to six months of home confinement (including electronic monitoring), three years of probation, 150 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Aurecchia paid restitution totaling $107,515 prior to sentencing.

Also, that year, a criminal complaint was filed charging Joseph Palumbo, former president of Firefighters Local 100 (located in Newport) with embezzlement and fraudulent conversion in the amount of $1,541.91.

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