Frank DeBrouse, former head of Washington's largest Teamsters local, was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday for allegedly receiving at least $200,000 in gifts from local corporations that wanted to ensure labor peace and hold down labor costs.
The indictment charged DeBrouse with tax evasion, extortion and violation of the Taft-Hartley Act as well as racketeering for allegedly using his office as head of Teamsters Local 639 to receive cash payments as large as $10,000 from companies that employed his union members.
Excavation Construction Inc., a multimillion-dollar Prince George's County firm, was accused in the indictment of giving DeBrouse the most expensive favor - $145,000 in labor and material to build DeBrouse's home in Anne Arundel County.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Rohrbaugh and Michael J. Traviesco presented the case to the grand jury, which returned the DeBrouse indictment yesterday after almost two years of investigations into labor management racketeering in the Baltimore and Washington areas. Other indictments of both labor and management figures are expected according to Russell T. Baker Jr., U.S. attorney for Maryland.
Albert J. Ahern, attorney for DeBrouse, said yesterday that "when all of the evidence is in, people will see that DeBrouse is not guilty of any of thses charges."
The 46-year-old DeBrouse was ousted from his office last year by Teamster dissidents who charged that their former leader was undemocratic and "worked in collusion with the managers of the firms at which union members worked."
DeBrouse's successor, Daniel George headed the dissident state and won the 1977 election by charging among other things, that DeBrouse's home was built, in part, by Excavation Construction Inc.
"We can all take pride that DeBrouse is no longer a Teamster," George said yesterday. "And all the members should be congratulated that they reached their decision to vote him out long before this indictment."
From 1971 through 1977, the indictment charged, DeBrouse received the following gifts from area corporations:
$145,000 worth of labor and materials from Excavation Construction Inc.
$2,000 worth of household appliances from Joseph M. Zamoiski Co., a household appliances wholesaler.
Two cash payments, one of $10,000 and another of $9,000, from Pinto Trucking Services Inc., as well as $200 weekly payments from November 1973 through December 1974.
$19,000 worth of architectural services and $10,388 worth of carpeting from Giant Food Inc.
Insect and rodent exterminating contracts for DeBrouse's Gotham Building Maintenance company from Giant and from International Distributing Corp. DeBrouse now owns the maintaince firm and the indictment alleges that he held a secret interest in it while he headed the Teamsters local.
Last June Giant pleaded guilty to making an illegal payment of carpeting for DeBrouse's home. In yesterday's indictment, DeBrouse is charged with extorting all the benefits from Giant and with attempting to extort $1,771 worth of cement from Contee Sand and Gravel Co. of Laurel.
The cement allegedly was to be used for foundations for the base of the night lights that DeBrouse put up on his home tennis court.
Most of the gifts and favors alleged in the indictment went to DeBrouse's dream house, an almost Arabesquestyled building set on 2.57 acres in the exclusive "Tara" section of Davidsonville. It has a swimming pool and tennis courts on the grounds as well as features such as a skylight dome in the three-bedroom home.
If convicted, DeBrouse could be forced to turn over to the federal government a $145,000 interest in his home because of penalites in the racketeering statute that allow the government to retrieve ill-gotten gains. If convicted on all counts, DeBrouse faces a maxmium sentence of 78 years in prison, and $145,000 worth of fines as well as the forfeiture of the $145,000 interest in his home.
For Local 639 members, the "house that DeBrouse built" is a symbol of the most intensely fought leadership battle of their local.
First elected to head the Washington union in 1969, DeBrouse was challenged within two years by George and dissidents who questioned why DeBrouse had close relationships with management figures.
When the home was under construction, the feud was already out in the open. At times there were racial overtones - DeBrouse is white and the union is 90 percent black - but generally the struggle was over how much say union members could have in negotiating contracts.
At the time DeBrouse was moving into his house, the union was completing negotiations on a contract with Excavation Construction Inc., a contract that set lower wages and fewer benefits for the Teamsters.Than they were receiving from other companies.
It was also close to election time for the union and Excavation Construction held a pre-election party for DeBrouse. This event led a federal judge to say, "the occurence of employer assistance to incumbents in the course of a government-supervised election (is) . . . indeed troubling."
DeBrouse was victorious over George and his dissident slate.
It was not until 1977 that DeBrouse was successfully challenged by George - the third time the two ran against each other in elections - and then DeBrouse refused to give up his office.
After losing, 1,450 to 868, DeBrouse sat in the Teamsters local headquarters, refusing to leave, and making out a $7,000 vacation paycheck for himself according to union records discovered by George.
DeBrouse finally vacated the office after George received a federal court order. Throughout the federal investigation of DeBrouse his attorney Ahern has charged that George is behind the federal effort.
"All of George's allegations have all been ventilated and they have all been refuted," Ahern has said. "The man (George) has had his day in court. Now he's trying to get the federal government to carry his coals to Newcastle."
But the federal investigation ranges far wider than the current indictment against DeBrouse, according to sources. The federal prosecutors also have subpoenaed records of Leo D'Alesio, former head of Baltimore's Teamsters Local 311, and those of corporate figures and heads of pension program funds in the Baltimore and Washington areas, according to the attorneys and some of the figures under scrutiny.