1/8/08

Teamster insiders suspected in break-in, theft

When the new leaders of the 12,000-member Teamsters Local 743 took office last week, they found several computers and other materials missing from the South Side headquarters.

The previous leadership team reported to Chicago Police that the equipment was stolen in two separate incidents, including one the weekend before Christmas.

But new local President Richard Berg noted that computers with union financial information were taken, along with business receipts, yet newer, nicer equipment was untouched.

He said the new staff can't pay its workers or figure out other finances without the equipment. "We believe it was an inside job," Berg said Friday.

But outgoing local President Richard Lopez -- who has been on sick leave for 2½ months -- denied his team was involved and noted that he reported the break-ins to police.

Although he said there did not appear to be signs of forced entry, he said many people had keys to the offices. He wondered if anyone had "switched sides" and given a key to the new leadership team ahead of time.

"It could have been anybody," Lopez said. "If someone did do it, they should be prosecuted and go to jail for it."

Chicago Police would only say the investigation into the missing property is ongoing.

The dueling accounts are the latest salvo in the heated battle between the two sides. On Tuesday, there is a court hearing over allegations that the Oct. 22 election -- in which Berg won -- was run incorrectly.

Lopez was indicted in September on charges he helped rig a 2004 union election to represent the transportation, clerical, food service, nursing home and manufacturing workers. He is out on bail. But he denied the U.S. attorney's claims that he and others sent ballots to nonunion members who in turn voted for his slate -- which won -- against Berg and his allies.

(suntimes.com)

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