Prosecutors detail case against Teamsters in closing arguments

Prosecutors in the election fraud trial of three former Teamsters Local 743 officials began closing arguments yesterday, referring to the mountain of evidence they collected against three defendants accused of scheming to steal two elections in 2004.

Trial attorney Vincent Falvo pointed to the fingerprints of David Rodriguez, a former organizer, that were discovered on several secret ballots that were mailed to friends and associates of the accused.

Falvo said Richard Lopez, former recording secretary, had seven ballots sent to the homes of men he recruited from the Eagle Club, in Melrose Park, where he was also a member.

Finally, Falvo spent the majority of his closing argument pointing to Thaddeus Bania, former comptroller. Falvo cited key pieces of evidence that put Bania at the computer terminal inputting address changes to direct ballots to individuals who appeared to have moved in together weeks before ballots were mailed to the membership.

The timing of the changes was suspect because they came within days and hours of when a master election list was to be mailed to the local ahead of the elections. The defendants would later retrieve those ballots and cast them in their favor, according to prosecutors.

The individuals were all part of an alleged scheme that has already led to guilty pleas from three former associates, including the president of the local, Robert Walston, who led the UNITY slate that maintained control until 2007.

In almost an hour and a half, Falvo condensed evidence that had consumed two weeks of the federal trial and included testimony from about a dozen witnesses, including the men from the Melrose Park club, a retired high-ranking official of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Walston.

The evidence included electronic records and scores of ballots that had been cross-referenced to show how ballots were stolen from a P.O. Box in the main Chicago post office. Later, another hundred ballots were sent to specific addresses, marked by the defendants and their cohorts and later cast to win the contest, according to prosecutors.

Falvo said he could not estimate how much time the men would spend behind bars if convicted of the 14 counts they face.

Closing arguments from the defendants' attorney are expected to begin this morning.

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.