DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A man who was a high-ranking official at a Michigan labor union has been indicted on charges of embezzlement, extortion and other crimes.

John Hamilton was business manager at Operating Engineers Local 324, based in suburban Detroit, through 2012. The indictment returned Wednesday says he enriched himself through illegal schemes, including forcing other union employees to pay $5,000 to a fund that was used for his benefit.

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A statement released by McQuade’s office outlines a nine-count indictment alleging that Hamilton used his position as Business Manager of Local 324 to personally enrich himself through a series of illegal schemes.

Hamilton allegedly threatened union employees with termination if they complained about the payments to his slate fund.

After losing re-election in an August 2012 membership vote, Hamilton then took for himself $71,000 from the slate fund, as well as distributing more than $35,000 each to Steven Minella and David Hart, two other top Local 324 officials. Hamilton structured and laundered this money by distributing it in a series of seventeen checks with false dates, all for amounts under $10,000.

Minella and Hart, the former President and Chief of Staff of the union, respectively, both pleaded guilty earlier this year to felonies for helping to conceal Hamilton’s extortion scheme.

The 61-year-old Hamilton of Riviera Beach, Florida, could not be reached for comment. There’s no home phone listed.

If convicted, Hamilton would face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the four counts of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud in the Indictment.

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He also faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of five counts of conspiracy to embezzle union funds, conspiracy to embezzle pension funds, embezzlement of union funds, and attempted structuring of financial transactions.

Local 324 represents heavy equipment and crane operators throughout Michigan, and Hamilton served as the union’s top elected official from 2003 through 2012.


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