BOSTON (Reuters) - Four members of the Teamsters union were arrested on Wednesday and charged with trying to extort a non-union company filming a reality television show in Boston last year, federal prosecutors said.
A fifth man was also arrested, but charges against him were dismissed after the court determined he was wrongly identified in a photograph.
Prosecutors contend the men approached the production company and demanded that it hire union members for the show, and when the company refused, they threatened to picket filming at two locations, prompting the owners of those locations to cancel production.
Federal prosecutors did not identify the production company, but the behavior and locations described in court papers matched with complaints made by a company filming the show “Top Chef,” the Boston Globe reported.
“A group of rogue Teamsters employed old-school thug tactics to get no-work jobs from an out-of-town production company,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. “The strong-arm tactics the FBI has seen in this case are egregious and our investigation is far from over.”
The men, members of Teamsters Local 25, also threatened physical harm to people working on the production, prosecutors said.
The four are Mark Harrington, 61, of Andover, Massachusetts; John Fidler, 51, of Holbrook, Massachusetts; Daniel Redmond, 47, of Medford, Massachusetts; and Robert Cafarelli, 45, of Middleton, Massachusetts. All four pleaded not guilty.
Each faces one count of conspiracy to extort and one of attempted extortion. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock ordered all charges dropped for Richard Jeffrey, 55, of Woburn, Massachusetts, after prosecutors determined that he had been misidentified and wrongly arrested.
“This case points out the frailties of eyewitness identification under the best of circumstances,” said Jeffrey’s attorney, Edward Ryan. “It’s unfortunate that he was identified in a press release as someone who was involved in this matter only to be vindicated hours later.”
An official at Teamsters Local 25 declined to comment on the charges.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh