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StarBulletin.com

Former union boss pays restitution after conviction


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Imprisoned ex-United Public Workers head Gary Rodrigues, convicted of 101 federal criminal charges, paid $378,103.63 in restitution to the UPW-AFSCME Local 646, U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni announced yesterday.

The payment comes seven years after Rodrigues' conviction, his failed appeals and follows litigation this past year over the disbursement of the funds in accordance with Judge David Ezra's order that the former UPW state director make restitution to the victim, namely the union.

The funds were paid out of Rodrigues' bank account, Nakakuni said.

The government alleged that with his power and influence as a union leader, Rodrigues negotiated consulting fees for the union's dental and medical contracts without the knowledge of the executive board, then directed the fees to two companies owned by his daughter Robin Sabatini, an accountant.

The current UPW director, Dayton Nakanelua, did not return calls from the Star-Bulletin.

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“;I'm glad the restitution was made,”; said Keith Faufata, one of three UPW chief stewards who alleged Rodrigues violated the union constitution by failing to disclose financial information. “;As far as what Judge Ezra ordered, that's a plus for the members, and I'm glad that it happened.”;

But Faufata said, “;It's not just the money.”; Had the government not investigated the allegations and the union not been taken over by its mainland parent, Rodrigues' people would have continued to control the union.

“;It's a union of people,”; said Faufata, a sewer line collection system maintenance worker. “;A union is not one man's leadership.”;

He praised the current union leadership for its fairness and said the union is “;more membership-run instead of being run from the top down.”;

Faufata said he had been one of Rodrigues' “;good old boys”; until he began questioning what was going on.

“;We had to do what we needed to do,”; he said. “;It was not an easy thing to do. ... Back then if Gary said something, that was what was going to go. Stepping up against him was not an easy thing to do.”;

He said that he and the others did not have all the facts, “;even though the books were supposed to be open because of the way it was kept.”; But they were aware of what Rodrigues had demanded in his retirement package and that UPW officials flew several times a year to his Oregon home to do construction and maintenance.

In the mid-1980s, Rodrigues and his secretary purchased 40.5 acres of land in Bend, Ore., and he later bought 193 acres next door by himself.

Rodrigues was convicted in 2002 of mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement, but the former union leader and his daughter had remained free on bail pending their appeals, which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied in 2007, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.

Rodrigues began serving his prison sentence of five years and four months in January 2008, as did Sabatini, who was sentenced to three years and 10 months' imprisonment.

Rodrigues' San Francisco-based attorney, Doron Weinberg, could not be reached for comment.