John Dougherty exits federal court after pleading not guilty at a 2019 arraignment

💡 Get Philly smart 💡
with BP’s free daily newsletter

Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.

Philly labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty is now facing not one, but two federal indictments.

Authorities charged the head of the Local 98 electricians union on Wednesday in a new federal criminal matter, according to court documents. Dougherty was arrested at his South Philadelphia home on Wednesday morning and released under supervision in the afternoon, said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams.

A 19-count indictment charges Dougherty and his nephew, Gregory Fiocca, with conspiracy and extortion. The duo allegedly threatened “violence and economic harm” on a contractor if he did not continue employing Dougherty’s nephew — even for hours he didn’t work.

Through a spokesperson, Dougherty said the charges were part of a long-term “persecution” against him.

Federal prosecutors say nephew Fiocca was a frequent no-show at his union electrical job. But when the contractor failed to pay him for a full 40 hours a week last August, Fiocca allegedly resorted to violence.

Fiocca grabbed a project manager identified as “R.G.” by the neck and threw him on a desk, threatening both him and the contractor, identified only as “R.P,” as well as the entire business.

“You owe me, 36 f-king hours before I break your f-king jaw,” Fiocca told the project manager, according to court documents. “Call an Agent. Call the [Union] Hall. There’s nothing you can do to me. I’m getting my money…You think yous are untouchable? I’ll break all of you, I’ll f-king break your face and [R.P.’s] face. How’s that sound?”

Fiocca allegedly said he was “calling my uncle already” and suggested the union leader would be “pulling everyone off the job.” An unnamed Local 98 representative later called Dougherty, according to court filings.

The powerful union boss intervened on his nephew’s behalf with “escalating threats of economic harm,” U.S. Attorney Williams alleged outside the federal courthouse Tuesday. Dougherty allegedly threatened to bar Local 98 electricians from working overtime, pull workers from the job site and potentially cut off the contractor’s electrical work with the city unless the spat with his nephew was resolved.

“Fiocca took advantage of his uncle’s position as a powerful leader of an influential union, assaulted a co-worker, and enriched himself at the expense of his employer — and [Dougherty] is alleged to have had his back through all of it,” Williams said.

The contractor continued to employ Fiocca from August through at least mid-January, during which time prosecutors allege Fiocca “did little or no work, and received salary, wages, and credit for employee benefit contributions paid by the contractor,” according to the filing.

The 18 counts of extortion each represent one biweekly paycheck Fiocca received in that time.

“At this point in time, we have no information as to the reason for the arrest,” said Dougherty spokesperson Frank Keel in a statement. “This federal investigation of John Dougherty has been going on almost from the day John was sworn in as IBEW Local 98 Business Manager in 1993.”

This is Doughtery’s second federal indictment in two years.

In January 2019, federal prosecutors charged him and five other union officials in an embezzlement scheme for allegedly bilking $600,000 from Local 98’s union coffers. He’s also implicated in a related bribery case alongside City Councilmember Bobby Henon, a longtime Local 98 employee. The two are scheduled for trial in May, and have both denied wrongdoing.

The new charges also follow a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor in January that accused Dougherty of threatening and intimidating would-be candidates in the union’s June 2020 election.

Federal authorities lambasted Dougherty for ensnaring himself in another federal indictment — focussing their comments on the damage done to his union. Philadelphia FBI Special Agent Michael Driscoll called the latest charges “another slap in the face” to Local 98 members.

“Contrary to John Dougherty’s apparent belief, the union is not his personal fiefdom,” Driscoll said Tuesday.

“Nobody’s picking on John Dougherty,” Driscoll added. “These are situations he’s created. These are the results of these actions, and quite frankly, if he continues to violate the law, the FBI will continue to arrest him.”

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...