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United Plant and Production Workers Local 175 is based in Roslyn, L.I.
By Forum Staff
A Long Island-based union official was sentenced on Friday to five years’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release, following his guilty plea to extorting a construction business owner during a meeting at a borough restaurant, federal authorities announced.
Roland Bedwell, the business manager of United Plant and Production Workers Local 175, which is headquartered in Roslyn, was arrested in December 2016. He pleaded guilty last August.
According to court filings, extortion for which Bedwell, 57, was sentenced on Friday was partly captured during a recorded conversation he had at a Queens eatery with an owner of a construction company. Bedwell explained to the victim the financial pain he had previously inflicted on others when, for example, a delivery truck transporting trees was blocked causing the trees t
o die. Bedwell then warned the victim that if he did not employ Local 175 members, Bedwell would use a crew of 15 “ex-military” men, who were unafraid to serve time in p
rison, to interfere with the victim’s business, resulting in the loss of a “tremendous amount of money.” Bedwell added, “Honestly, whatever they do or don’t do—pretty much up to them . . . either you’re gonna sign the contract . . . or these boys are gonna do it again.”
The business owner relented, making his workers sign with Local 175.
In connection with his guilty plea, Bedwell also admitted that he attempted to extort another construction business owner, telling him that he would not get asphalt delivered to a LaGuardia Airport job site if he did not agree to employ Local 175 members. When the owner refused to sign an agreement with Local 175, Bedwell and his co-conspirators stopped the asphalt-delivery trucks, harassed the drivers, and slashed their tires.
According to federal officials, Bedwell, who lives in Freeport, often referred to his ties to a member and then-associate of the Gambino organized crime family, as well as his own reputation as a “muscle man,” to intimidate businesses into signing labor contracts with Local 175. Bedwell’s co-conspirators also physically assaulted workers associated with contractors who refused to sign with Local 175, according to charging documents and statements made in court.
“For many of the cases investigated by our FBI New York Joint Organized Crime Task Force, the general public doesn’t see the real life impact of organized crime groups and their criminal acts,” stated FBI New York Assistant Director-in-
Charge Bill Sweeney. “But this case illustrates how extortion and threats stopped progress at a public works project at one of the busiest airports in our region. The subject boasted about how he didn’t understand why he wasn’t in jail. After an outstanding investigation with our law enforcement partners, that’s exactly where he is going.”