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ERVOLINO AIDES AGREE TO SETTLE EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES

A federally appointed investigator is settling embezzlement charges against former associates of Frank H. Ervolino, leaving the ex-union chief and his family as the sole target of a federal investigation.

Daniel J. Bielat and William P. Yarmal, who helped Ervolino run three Buffalo-based unions, have made agreements that will drop embezzlement charges against them, their attorneys said Thursday.

Both have left positions at unions that used to be controlled by Ervolino.

The settlements came the same day that a federally appointed monitor held a hearing on the charges in Cheektowaga. The monitor, Kurt W. Muellenberg, was appointed under 1995 settlement of racketeering charges against the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

Muellenberg said he had not seen or finalized the agreements to drop charges against Bielat and Yarmal. But he confirmed that Investigations Officer Laurence D. Connor was discussing settlements with the two.

Neither Bielat or Yarmal gave testimony at the hearing, investigators said.

Following the closed hearing, Muellenberg said he will decide in four weeks if Ervolino; his wife Anna May Ervolino; and daughter Andrea Ervolino Scibetta, funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in union funds into their own pockets between 1990 through 1995.

However, it is unclear whether any potential penalty would go beyond barring the Ervolinos from union posts that they have already relinquished. Frank Ervolino resigned his last union job in November 1997.

Ervolino, 74, was president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 4, the AFL-CIO Hospital and Nursing Home Council, and the Laundry and Dry Cleaners Local 168-39, all based in Buffalo. The unions had a combined membership of 14,795 in Western New York and parts of Central New York at the end of 1996.

Ervolino was also president of the Laundry and Dry Cleaning International Union, the Pittsburgh-based parent of Local 168-39.

On Thursday the Ervolinos ignored the monitor's call to attend the hearing, setting the stage for a legal showdown and appearing to dim the chances for any restitution.

Since the Ervolinos no longer hold positions in the hotel workers' union, the monitor has no authority to call them to testify or to impose penalties, said Joseph V. Sedita, the Ervolinos' lawyer.

"The fact is, the Ervolinos are retired," Sedita said. "He's (Frank Ervolino is) well into his 70s."

Moreover, Anna Ervolino Scibetta only worked for the union, and was never an officer or member, he said.

Sedita compared the monitor's action to an organization like the Elks Club attempting to chastise a member who had already resigned.

According to the investigations officer's charges, Ervolino collected $1.5 million from the unions in salary and pension benefits over the five-year period, while his wife collected $529,610 and his daughter received $246,018.

The amounts included unauthorized raises and bonuses that were paid while the unions' financial health deteriorated, the charges said.

Ervolino also benefited from union-paid insurance policies and entered into unreported deals between the union and businesses run by his family, according to the charges.

Ervolino, who has denied charges of wrongdoing at the unions in the past, could not be reached for comment.

One witness who testified at Thursday's hearing, which was closed to the press and public, said the questions she was asked focused on the hours that the Ervolinos put in at their jobs.

"They were never there," said Rose Salisbury, former health benefits secretary at the Hospital and Nursing Home Council. "I hope that they'll never be able to hold a position again, in this or any other union."

Muellenberg said he doesn't need the Ervolinos to recognize his authority in order to bar them from membership in the hotel employees union or the Hospital and Nursing Home Council.

However, it's not clear how he would collect fines or restitution, should he rule against the Ervolinos. Muellenberg refused to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to talk about enforcement before making his finding.

Leaving enforcement to the U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. -- which appointed Muellenberg -- would open the door to an appeal, Sedita said. He said he doubted the monitor would subject his case to the rigors of a courtroom, where evidence can be challenged by the targets of an investigation.

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