Five members of Boston Teamsters Local 25 who terrorized the cast and crew of Top Chef last year in a failed effort to get the show to sign a union contract have been arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office with attempted extortion (read it here). The local’s harassment of the show was first reported on Deadline.
“The indictment alleges that a group of rogue Teamsters employed old school thug tactics to get no-work jobs from an out of town production company,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “In the course of this alleged conspiracy, they managed to chase a legitimate business out of the City of Boston and then harassed the cast and crew when they set up shop in Milton. This kind of conduct reflects poorly on our city and must be addressed for what it is – not union organizing, but criminal extortion.”
Mark Harrington, 61, of Andover; John Fidler, 51, of Holbrook; Daniel Redmond, 47, of Medford; Robert Cafarelli, 45, of Middleton; and Richard Jeffrey, 55, of Woburn, were indicted on conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion of a television production company in order to obtain no-work jobs for fellow Teamsters. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000, although actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.
“While unions have the right to advocate on behalf of their members, they do not have the right to use violence and intimidation,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The strong-arm tactics the FBI has seen in this case are egregious and our investigation is far from over. Today’s arrests should send a message to those who think they can get away with manipulating the system that they better think twice.”
As first reported here, about a dozen members of the Teamsters local had set up a picket line outside the Steel & Rye restaurant in the town of Milton, MA just outside of Boston, where the show was filming. When Padma Lakshmi, the show’s host, arrived at the restaurant, one of the Teamsters rushed her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking whore!”
“She was scared,” said a Top Chef crewmember who witnessed the incident, which occurred on June 10, 2014, while filming an episode for the 12th season of the popular Bravo cooking-competition show. “He was screaming at her aggressively and violently.”
The Teamsters kept at it for hours, raining down racist, sexist and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set. Jenn Levy, Bravo’s SVP Production, wasn’t spared. Arriving at the restaurant in her black SUV, she soon found herself running a gauntlet of vitriol. “She got out of her car in front of the location and quickly ran through the picket line,” a source said. “They were yelling, ‘You bitch! You slut! We’re gonna get you!’ It went on like that all day.”
John King, Milton’s Deputy Police Chief, told Deadline that the Teamsters were “threatening, heckling and harassing.” The first officer on the scene, he said, had to call for backup after the Teamsters “gave the officer trouble.” Reading from the police report, he said the Teamsters were “hostile, swearing, and refusing to let people come in and out. Officers repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation.” When more police arrived, the Teamsters went to the show’s hospitality tent and “harassed the crew there.” When the officers went there, King said, “A group of them slashed the tires on 14 different cars owned by the crew.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the defendants “conspired to force the production company to pay Local 25 members for unnecessary work by threatening physical and economic harm to the company. Among other things, the indictment alleges that on June 10, 2014, the defendants showed up at a restaurant in Milton where the production company was filming. The defendants entered the production area and began walking in lockstep toward the doors of the restaurant where they accosted film crew members and attempted to forcibly enter the restaurant. Throughout the morning, the defendants yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the film crew and others, threatened crew and cast members, and shouted profanities. The defendants also blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set, and used physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set.”
At the time, Teamsters Local 25 president Sean M. O’Brien dismissed Deadline’s account of the incident as “fiction at best,” saying in a written statement that, “If the allegations were true, Milton Police would have taken appropriate action.”