By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The FBI is investigating the leadership of the Boilermakers union local 154, looking at how as much as $1 million in union dues were spent.

The union represents more than 2,000 local welders, pipefitters and other workers in the construction trades.

KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan examined three years’ worth of financial reports submitted by the union to the U.S. Department of Labor – 2012, 2013 and 2014.

KDKA discovered large expenditures designated as “gifts,” including $270,00 spent at Best Buy over those three years. Over a two year period, the union spent $48,000 at the Apple Store, $28,800 at a store called Drum World in the South Hills, $19,000 at Tumi Luggage and $6,000 at an upscale sunglasses store in Miami.

Since information about the recipients of those “gifts” wasn’t included in the financial reports, who received them isn’t clear.

Union leadership also spent large sums on meetings, conventions and entertainment as detailed in the financial reports. The union spent more than $31,000 at the Double Tree Ocean Point in Miami Beach, $34,000 at the Hilton Marco Island Resort, and $10,000 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Records for the years KDKA examined show the union also spent $11,400 for tickets at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, more than $20,000 for Penguins tickets here in Pittsburgh, $70,000 for catering and tabs at local restaurants including $5,600 in just one night at Morton’s Steakhouse downtown.

Sources tell Andy Sheehan that investigators are focusing on former union Business Manager Ray Ventrone, who resigned his position in March.

When reached by phone Ventrone had no comment nor did his successor at the union, John Hughes.

However, national union leaders in Kansas City did issue a statement saying, “The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) has been informed that there is an ongoing investigation of some individuals currently and/or previously associated with Local Lodge 154. The authorities have asked IBB not to comment on that investigation, which it will not, other than to state that IBB is conducting its own investigation and is fully cooperating with the authorities.”

Ventrone and other union leaders have also come under criticism from their membership for building a banquet facility across the street from union headquarters on Banksville Road at a cost, sources say, of more than a million dollars.

The hall was intended to boost union finances from fees for weddings and other events, but sources say it has under-performed. The union spent $54,000 on top of the line kitchen supplies to furnish the facility.

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