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Final defendant in Local 17 extortion scheme is sentenced

New staff reports

An Eden man convicted of racketeering conspiracy was sentenced Friday to time served by Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, who also judged him partially responsible for $890,000 in restitution.

Gerald H. Franz Jr., 54, was the eighth and final defendant of the 12 members of Local 17, International Union of Operating Engineers to be convicted and sentenced following a 2008 indictment. Four other Local 17 members were found not guilty following a jury trial.

The Local 17 members were accused of extorting and attempting to extort construction contractors doing business in Western New York between January 1997 and December 2007, according to Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy. Jr.

Victims included Zoldaz Construction, doing housing demolition work in Buffalo and work at Dunkirk Landfill in Pomfret, and Wadsworth Golf Construction Co., in connection with golf course work efforts in Orchard Park and Cheektowaga.

In one case, heavy equipment was damaged when sand was poured into the oil box. Company employees and representatives also were the subject of threats, authorities said.

In August, Mark Kirsch, Local 17’s former president and business manager, was sentenced to three years in prison by Skretny, who at the time, said Local 17’s activities had far-reaching consequences.

“I think it set back the development of the Western New York business community for decades,” the judge said. “It slowed good job opportunities instead of creating good job opportunities.”

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