Ex-Brooklyn construction union boss sentenced to 5 years for bribery scheme

Salvatore Tagliaferro was convicted of trading nearly 500 union memberships for cash


Surrounded by colleagues celebrating the holiday season, two labor leaders hatched a plan in 2017: They would rig how new members were accepted into the carpenters’ union.

Salvatore Tagliaferro, former president of Local 926, was sentenced on Wednesday to 60 months in prison, with two years of supervised release, for his role in a scheme that saw hundreds of union membership cards traded for cash bribes. He must also pay the union $145,000 in restitution and forfeit nearly $300,000.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York confirmed the terms of the sentence but declined to comment. An attorney for Tagliaferro, who was found guilty in April, indicated that his client plans to appeal and “prevail at a retrial.”

According to prosecutors, Tagliaferro and co-defendant John DeFalco, then the vice president of Local 157, began discussing the scheme at a Christmas party in 2017.

DeFalco and Tagliaferro would solicit bribes from prospective union members in exchange for approving their applications, according to a sentencing memo submitted by prosecutors.

Between 2017 and 2019, the pair accepted bribes from 494 potential members, taking in between $600 and $2,000 from each, according to the latest estimates by prosecutors.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Authorities believe the two took in at least $296,400 in bribes, higher than estimates presented before Tagliaferro’s trial. Though membership at Local 926 soared by more than 800, over half of those new members never worked a single hour at a union job, according to the memo.

“With so many new members flooding into the Union from the defendant’s scheme, there simply was not enough work to go around, and individuals who had paid bribes in the hope of obtaining work were left with only a plastic card to show for it,” the memo states.

DeFalco previously pleaded guilty to multiple charges and testified in Tagliaferro’s trial.

Following the arrests of Tagliaferro and DeFalco in June 2019, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, the parent organization of Local 926, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the umbrella organization for regional carpenters’ groups, temporarily took control of the local.

The District Council of Carpenters, which was placed under supervision of an independent monitor in 1994, recently added oversight of new member admissions to the monitor’s responsibilities. The change was among several reforms partially inspired by the 2019 indictments against Tagliaferro and DeFalco.

Prosecutors described Tagliaferro as the ringleader of the scheme, calling it a “premeditated crime of greed.” But he denies the charges.

“I’m here today as an innocent man,” Tagliaferro wrote in a letter to the court. “While I did approve the admission of membership into the local for the members that came in, I was never aware that anyone was being charged for such admission. Instead, my job was simply to help build the membership and help people achieve a middle class position in life while never asking for or accepting anything for having done so.”