Top Thug: Teamsters Audition for Villain Role – Get Callback from Attorney General
Five Boston Teamsters from a local union, notorious for criminal activity, have now been indicted for extortion after terrorizing the cast and crew of the popular Bravo show, Top Chef, at a restaurant in Milton, Massachusetts last year. Arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office for violent and threatening behavior, they had attempted to shut down the set until the show used union drivers.
Teamsters Local 25 is a Charleston-based union of 11,000 members that has been active for over a hundred years – and despite stating on its website that it consists of “all colors and creeds” which are “not looking for trouble”– members of the Teamsters had reportedly shouted racist, sexist, and homophobic threats at host, Padma Lakshmi, and her crew eventually becoming so disruptive that the crew not only had to call the police for protection, but the arriving officer was forced to call for additional backup.
John King, Milton’s Deputy Police Chief said the Teamsters were “threatening, heckling and harassing,” while officers “repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation.” A group of Teamsters even slashed the tires of 14 different cars owned by crew members while the police were preoccupied with others who had started harassing the crew in the show’s hospitality tent.
In response to the violent threats, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division was quoted in Deadline as saying:
“The strong-arm tactics the FBI has seen in this case are egregious and our investigation is far from over. Today’s arrests should send a message to those who think they can get away with manipulating the system that they better think twice.”
The published indictment even reveals that the Top Chef show had initially moved their set out of Boston and into nearby Milton in response to an unnamed official from Mayor Walsh’s administration calling the two Boston venues and stating that if they hosted the show, the union would picket the sight. And even though the show was forced to relocate at the request of their hotel, which did not want to be associated with a picket, fifty members of Local 25 were additionally sent to Milton to continue this harassment.
The indictment also concludes by stating that it was directly “part of the conspiracy” to use this show of force and violence in order to “obtain wages for such imposed, unwanted, and unnecessary and superfluous services for themselves and other third parties.”
This is not the first time that Hollywood has been threatened by the Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 either. Following the 1978 filming in Boston of “The Brink’s Job,” two members of the Teamsters were charged on racketeering charges for forcing the movie company to put fictitious workers on their payrolls and mail the checks to a Teamsters Local 25 trustee and general organizer’s home.
However, what Attorney General Carmen Ortiz had called “old school thug tactics,” has applied to other activities by Local 25, not just bullying film crews.
Last year two members of Boston-based Teamsters Local 82, which has since merged into Local 25, were also convicted of racketeering for rigging elections and intimidating business owners.
In 2013 Teamsters 25 donated $14,999 to Walsh’s mayoral campaign, $1,500 to former state representative Eugene O’Flaherty, a top advisor to Walsh at City Hall, and $1,500 to Felix G. Arroyo, Walsh’s chief of health and human services. Additionally, in the last year the union has given each of Boston’s 13 City Council members a $500 donation.
Ten years earlier, the heralded and outspoken leader for reform in Local 25, George Cashman, was sentenced for 34 months in prison for extorting a $20,000 kickback from a health care company and falsifying work orders so that 19 ineligible truck drivers — including a Charlestown gangster — could collect union medical benefits.
Even the current president of Local 25, Sean M. O’Brien, acknowledge in a 2011 Globe interview that the union had a “sordid past.”
With such a checkered past in criminal behavior, it is surprising that members of Local 25 have decided to continue their trend of extortion. However, when given an opportunity to shake down Hollywood – it is apparent that these Boston-based thugs couldn’t resist the urge.