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Former Union Boss Pleads Guilty To Stealing $1.5M In Dues

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For 19 years, Ray Ventrone was the head of the Boilermakers Local 154, entrusted with the dues of hundreds of members.

But the government says he lavished more than $1.5 million of that money on himself and his family, allegedly purchasing luxury items, including furniture, gym and nautilus equipment, and tens of thousands of dollars in musical equipment.

It was enough to fill an entire auction house.

"What a waste it is. How much does one person need? There's like 20 living room sets here," said Wendy McCue, a consumer at the auction house.

Ventrone had argued that much of the expenditures were gifts for the membership, but the government said he had union workers renovate his house and an apartment for his son complete with a gym and musical studio.

KDKA's own investigation questioned other purchases by the union leadership, which under Ventrone spared no expense in treating themselves at meetings and conventions.

They are accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars at a Florida resortm and tens of thousands more on sports tickets and restaurants, $5,600 of that in one night at Morton's Steakhouse downtown.

The union recovered and auctioned off nine truckloads of goods, recouping several hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the government says that is only a fraction.

On Thursday, Ventrone pled guilty to tax evasion and stealing and embezzling $1.5 million in money and property.

Under his plea agreement, the government is recommending three to four years in prison, and he was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $2.5 million.

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