Rodrigues, left, is shown outside federal court in 2001. Robin Sabatini is shown above right in 2002 with Doron Weinberg, lawyer for her father, Gary Rodrigues.
Former UPW leader ordered to prison
Judge wants no delay in Rodrigues’ prison term
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Convicted union leader Gary Rodrigues and daughter Robin Sabatini have until Jan. 7 to turn themselves in to begin serving sentences for defrauding the United Public Workers, a federal judge has ruled.
But Rodrigues' attorney, Doron Weinberg, says Rodrigues will file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the validity of the conviction.
Rodrigues, former state director of the government workers union, received a 64-month prison sentence after he was convicted of mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. Sabatini, convicted of mail fraud and money laundering, was sentenced to 46 months in prison.
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Former labor leader Gary Rodrigues has been ordered to federal prison on Jan. 7, more than four years after being found guilty of defrauding the United Public Workers union.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra found no reason to further delay the sentence and issued an order Oct. 31 affirming the 64-month sentence he meted out Oct. 6, 2003, for Rodrigues.
Rodrigues, 65, who served as state director of the 15,000-member union from 1981, resigned after he was found guilty in November 2002 of 101 felony counts of mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. He was also ordered to serve three years on supervised release after he completes his prison term.
His daughter Robin Haunani Rodrigues Sabatini was convicted of 95 felony counts, including mail fraud and money laundering, and was sentenced to 46 months. She also was ordered to go to prison on Jan. 7.
Father and daughter are also jointly responsible for paying restitution to UPW of $378,103.
Federal prosecutors maintained that Rodrigues negotiated consulting fees into the union's dental and medical contracts without the knowledge of the executive board, then caused the fees to be sent to two companies owned by Sabatini, an accountant.
Rodrigues also was convicted of accepting kickbacks in connection with a welfare-benefit plan that was covered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The federal act prohibits the acceptance or solicitation of gifts or gratuities.
Both were allowed to remain free pending the resolution of their appeal. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury's verdict on June 11 and later denied Rodrigues' petitions for rehearings.
"We believe the judge made the right decision in affirming their sentences," Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni said yesterday.
Doron Weinberg, Rodrigues' San Francisco-based attorney, said they are disappointed in the court's order, calling the sentences "excessive."
"As his lawyer and someone who studied the case for six to seven years now, I'm absolutely confident that he never misappropriated a penny from the UPW or its members and never committed any of the crimes for which he was convicted," Weinberg said.
"If we assume he did what he is accused of doing, we had hoped with the passage of time (Ezra) would reconsider, but he has not."
In a memo filed Oct. 15, the defense asked that Rodrigues' sentence be reduced to 33 months and he be allowed to pay the restitution in installments of $1,000 a month.
The $378,103 owed the union represents not only the consulting fees Sabatini received from insurer Pacific Group Medical Association, but also fees paid to Rodrigues from Hawaii Dental Service based on his negotiation of the UPW's dental plans.
Federal prosecutors contend that the sentences were reasonable, arguing that Rodrigues' conduct occurred over a long period, from at least October 1992 to December 2000. They said while numerous checks were made out to Sabatini's company, Rodrigues personally benefited by directing money to her. He was able to pay off a personal loan by steering consultant fees to Sabatini. Rodrigues' other daughter also received payments from Sabatini's companies, prosecutors said.
They said Sabatini never rendered services but still pocketed $193,000 paid to her in 1996.
"He clearly abused a position of trust placed in him by the more than 12,000 members of UPW, in a manner which continued for a long time, and which was carefully crafted to avoid getting caught, while lining his pockets, and that of his daughter, with hundreds of thousands of dollars," the government said in its memo.
The only option for Rodrigues is to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the conviction, Weinberg said.
Weinberg said they are preparing such a petition: "It's not completely over."
Dennis Reardon, Sabatini's San Francisco-based attorney, could not be reached for comment.
But Eric Seitz, attorney for Rodrigues on three separate civil matters, said they also intend to ask the court for an additional delay of his surrender date until after the end of January.
Rodrigues is expected to testify Jan. 15 in U.S. District Court in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former UPW senior accountant Jeanne Endo against the union. She alleged that Rodrigues harassed her several times over a five-year period ending in 2001. Rodrigues, who was brought into the case by UPW, denies the allegations.