Former Teamster denies ballot fraud

One of three former Teamsters accused of stealing a 2004 union election took the stand yesterday in his own defense and suffered a blistering interrogation by the prosecution.

Thaddeus Bania, former comptroller of Teamsters Local 743, frequently stumbled through questions about his involvement in a scheme to direct mail ballots to addresses of friends, family and associates.

"I would never have gotten involved in such a stupid juvenile scheme like this," Bania said in response to questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent Falvo.

A key part of Bania's testimony focused on when addresses of union voters were allegedly changed in the Teamsters database. The changes were made using Bania's computer account, prosecutors say. 

Bania told jurors that he was at his former mother-in-law's wake and funeral the day the changes were made. 

But Falvo, in one of the most heated exchanges of the trial, produced the woman's obituary to show that her wake was in the afternoon. He suggested Bania could have changed the addresses before leaving for the service.

Bania suggested that someone else could have changed the addresses using his name.

"Which theory are you going with today? The mysterious outsider or the girls," Falvo asked, referring to Bania's female assistants.

Bania said he was not accusing four female subordinates, but that they could have changed the information using his password.

Bania is the second defendant to take the stand. David Rodriguez, former organizer, testifed earlier this week. Richard Lopez, former recording secretary, has decided not to take the stand.

Closing arguments in the trial are expected to begin this afternoon.

Staff Writer Fernando Diaz covers labor and unions for the Daily News. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 14, or fernando [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.