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Maritime union officials indicted

By Associated Press
Published September 15, 2005

MIAMI - The president of a national union of merchant fleet officers, his brother and two other officials are charged in a federal indictment with embezzlement of union money, election rigging and fraud, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The 13-count indictment names Michael McKay, 58, national president of the American Maritime Officers Union, and Robert McKay, 55, the union's national secretary-treasurer. A current union employee, James Lynch, 55, and former employee Phillip Ciccarelli, 64, were also charged.

"We will continue to aggressively prosecute those individuals who abuse their positions of trust for their own personal and financial benefit," said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of Miami.

The union, which Michael McKay has led since 1994, represents about 4,000 maritime officers who serve aboard U.S.-flagged merchant vessels, including cruise ships. Its national headquarters is in Dania Beach.

Prosecutors say the McKays conspired in 1993 and 1996 to rig union elections by stuffing ballot boxes and destroying ballots cast for opponents and for union initiatives backed by opponents.

They are also charged with embezzling money from union accounts, including a member vacation benefits plan, to secretly reimburse union officers and employees for political campaign contributions - including more than $28,000 to a single, unnamed member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

For much of the year, the union kept a yacht, the MV AMOS , moored in Washington that "was used to entertain government and political officials on cruises on the Potomac River," the indictment says. Lynch was captain of that yacht until April 2003.

The officials also embezzled money from union benefit plans for such things as hockey tickets, cigars and personal boat repairs, and used free union housing in Dania Beach for themselves, family members and guests, according to the indictment.

The housing, which was supposed to be reserved for official union business, allegedly was used for eight years to provide free lodging for Michael McKay's personal secretary, who is not identified in court papers.

Both McKay brothers pleaded not guilty during a court appearance before a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale and were released on $500,000 bail.

Union officials had no immediate comment on the charges, which could land all four defendants in prison for lengthy sentences and impose stiff fines. In addition, the government is seeking forfeiture of more than $528,000 from the defendants.

[Last modified September 15, 2005, 01:04:09]

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