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Former union boss sent to prison for ordering assault
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Former union boss sent to prison for ordering assault

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Jeff Veach

Jeffrey R. Veach

HAMMOND — A former Northwest Indiana union official is going to prison for a 2016 attack on a non-union work crew at a Dyer church.

U.S. District Court Judge Theresa L. Springmann imposed a 42-month sentence Wednesday on Jeffrey R. Veach, 57, of Portage.

Veach was, until recently, president of the Portage-based Local 395 union of International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers.

He resigned his union position and salary as required by his guilty plea Jan. 24 to organizing a violent attack against a non-union work crew that refused to join Local 395.

Alexander B. Gottfried, an attorney for the United States Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, argued in an earlier court memo that Veach’s crime was “insidious.”

“Under the pretext of serving their union, (Veach) victimized the very type of people (he was) supposed to be fighting for; innocent, hard-working iron workers, who were just trying to do their jobs,” Gottfried wrote.

Defense attorney Kevin Milner said in his earlier memo to the court the attack was an “aberration” in the life of a man who had a spotless record of legitimate union work and no prior record of union intimidation.

He has been employed by Iron Workers Local 395 for 28 years, holding the title of president since 2011. He is the father of two children ages 36 and 18.

Veach pleaded guilty to conspiring with Thomas R. Williamson, a former business agent for Local 395, to threaten and used violence to obtain union contracts from D5 Iron Works of Union, Illinois.

Williamson pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to his role in the assault. Williamson is now scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 15.

A D5 Iron Works work crew was installing steel framing for a school to be built for the Dyer Baptist Church the first week of January, 2016.

The government alleges Local 395 had “territorial jurisdiction” over areas of Northwest Indiana, including Dyer, and routinely monitored job sites for employers not using Local 395 ironworkers.

D5's owner refused Williamson’s attempt to have union members work the Dyer job.

Williamson allegedly returned to the construction site the next day, Jan. 7, 2016, with Veach, who recruited about a dozen rank-and-file members of Local 395 to surround the work site that afternoon.

Gottfried states the D5 was packing up for the day when a caravan of vehicles pulled into the site’s parking lot.

Local 395 members got out and began attacking D5 worker with fists, loose pieces of wood and steel-toe work boots, kicking some who had fallen to the ground, including one whose jaw was broken multiple times.

Although local law enforcement never charged Veach, a federal grand jury indicted him and Williamson more two years later, Aug. 15, 2018, with conspiracy to commit extortion under the federal Hobbs Act, which protects interstate commerce.

Veach admitted in his plea agreement he and Williamson initiated the attack to intimidate the employer to withdraw the non-union workers and win a contract for Local 395 workers.

Gottfried argued in his memo that “there are many legal ways that the Defendant could have pressured the church to use union labor for their project. But (Veach)....didn’t organize a picket. He organized an ambush. This case isn’t about union or non-union; it’s about violence and extortion.”

The school construction was later completed by a different company, protected by armed security guards.

Veach and Williamson have agreed to pay their victims $30,869 in restitution.

The victims are seeking additional damages against the two defendants and the union through civil litigation.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. Jeffrey Veach has been sentenced to 42 months in prison.

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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