Friday, November 19, 2010

Ex-carpenters union boss Michael Forde sentenced to 11 years after pleading guilty to corruption

By Brian Kates and Greg B. Smith

Michael Forde arrives at court Friday before his sentencing.
The "downright wicked" labor boss Michael Forde was sentenced to 11 years in prison Friday for selling out the rank-and-file of the city's biggest construction union.

Forde apologized as Manhattan Federal Judge Victor Marrero handed him a sentence just three months short of the maximum that prosecutors wanted.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I betrayed trust. I am deeply ashamed for my behavior. I have no excuse," said Forde, once head of the 20,000-member District Council of Carpenters and Joiners.

Dozens of union members who packed the room listened raptly as Marrero called Forde a "downright wicked" man who "operated on the frontiers of depravity."

In July, Forde pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, admitting that for 15 years he'd pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors who broke union rules.

Prosecutors this week revealed that Forde had put his "personal cocaine supplier" on the union payroll and bought him lavish dinners and trips with District Council funds.

After he was sentenced, Forde - who tested positive for coke and marijuana when he was arrested - requested a drug rehab program in prison. He must surrender by Jan. 7.

The District Council is one of the most politically powerful but also historically corrupt unions in the city.

The union has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and Forde has endorsed top pols including Mayor Bloomberg.

His malfeasance took place while a court-appointed monitor oversaw the union. Forde's two predecessors were both imprisoned on corruption charges, and he came into office promising reforms.

Almost immediately he began taking bribes from corrupt contractors who wanted to pump up profits by using non-union labor at construction sites.

"Eleven years is fitting but I'd have liked to see more," said Christopher Silva of Local 608. "The devastation he caused will be felt for many years."

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