Former Philly labor leader Johnny Doc found guilty of 70 counts of fraud and embezzlement

After a trial that lasted six weeks, a jury convicted Dougherty of most charges related to funds he stole from the union he once led.


John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A jury has found former Philadelphia labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty guilty on 70 counts of embezzling funds from the electricians union he once led. This marks his second conviction on federal charges in about two years, making it more likely he will serve prison time.

Following a six-week trial, Dougherty was convicted of the vast majority of charges against him including embezzlement, conspiracy, wire fraud, tax fraud, and falsifying financial reports.

Michael Levy, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the number of guilty verdicts demonstrates the strength of the case the government presented.

“If they convicted him on five, that would be enough,” he told WHYY News. “Seventy counts is an overwhelming verdict that says the jury was just appalled by what he did.”

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Once a hugely influential political force who directed millions in contributions to local, state, and national political campaigns, and helped elect Mayor Jim Kenney and other officials, the 63-year-old Dougherty used hundreds of thousands of dollars of funds from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to fund a wide variety of personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Dougherty’s codefendant, former union president Brian Burrows, was also found guilty of conspiracy and other related charges. Four other former union employees previously pleaded guilty in the case.

Together they spent more than $600,000 from union accounts on groceries, expensive restaurant meals, home repairs, music and sports tickets, and other personal spending. According to a lengthy and blistering indictment handed down in January 2019, Dougherty’s family members and others, were beneficiaries of the ill-gotten largess.

Dougherty was convicted in November 2021 on  federal corruption charges for bribing his co defendant in that case, former City Councilmember Bobby Henon. Henon reported to prison in April 2023 to serve a three-and-a-half year term, while Dougherty’s sentencing was postponed until all the charges against him are resolved.

He still faces a possible third trial on extortion charges.

Prosecutors allege ‘intentional theft’

Among the spending that directly benefited Dougherty was more than $40,000 in contracting services at his Pennsport home, including a $4,200 large-screen TV installed in March 2014, the Inquirer reported. There were $7,000 in gift cards to Boyd’s clothing store, $2,600 in clothing from Brooks Brothers, and $1,100 in tips at Phillies games in 2015.

Union contractors performed  plumbing work in a former pub two members ran in a Pennsport building owned by Dougherty, and the union leader paid for snow removal and painting work at the home of his brother, state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, per the indictment. Kevin Dougherty was not charged or accused of any wrongdoing.

Local 98 also paid for work on homes owned by the union’s boss’s daughter and sister.

Lucky Charms cereal, frozen pizza, potato salad and soup from Famous 4th Street deli, frappuccinos, processed cheese spray, and Del Frisco’s lemon cake, were among many delicacies Doughtery paid for, as listed in the indictment.

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Dougherty bought seven honey-baked hams and sides to give as gifts, describing the purchase as “Toys and Turkeys (for food baskets)” on a reimbursement form.

During the trial prosecutors described the spending as “intentional theft,” while Dougherty’s attorneys argued he didn’t know about many of the purchases, or mistakenly charged them to Local 98 because he was very busy and distracted by his work for the union, the Inquirer reported.

Defense attorneys for Dougherty and Burrows attacked key witness like contractor Anthony Massa, who they alleged was lying on the witness stand in exchange for leniency from prosecutors.

They also tried to have the case thrown out over the FBI’s use of secret recordings of Dougherty made by an informant, which they argued compromised the union’s right to a fair trial. Judge Jeffrey Schmehl, who presided over both trials, rejected the argument.

One  recording is  of a November 2019 meeting where Dougherty urged any Local 98 members who might consider betraying him to kill themselves, per the Inquirer.

“I’m going to make sure everybody, everywhere — everybody at your kids’ school — knows that you’re a punk and a rat and a creep,” Dougherty said on the tape. “Your kids don’t want to grow up knowing your daddy’s a rat, daddy’s a punk!”

A potential third trial

The former union boss could face up to 20 years for the corruption conviction alone, although he may receive much less time given the relatively short term handed down to Henon, according to Levy, the retired former federal prosecutor.

The seriousness of the extortion charges, which include allegations of violence by Dougherty’s nephew Gregory Fiocca, mean the “odds [are] decent” the former union leader will go to jail, Levy told WHYY’s Billy Penn in October.

The indictment says Fiocca failed to show up for his job as a Local 98 shop steward at a job site, and when he wasn’t paid for the hours he was absent, assaulted a company manager. After Dougherty threatened to pull electricians off the job and prevent the company from getting future projects, Fiocca continued to get paid despite doing little work, prosecutors say.

The government offered to drop the charges against Dougherty if he pleaded guilty to an embezzlement count and served a short prison term, the Inquirer reported. He refused the offer.

When a sentencing hearing is held, defense lawyers may present mitigating information in an effort to convince Schmehl to give Dougherty a short sentence or no jail time. Dougherty can also appeal his convictions after he’s sentenced, which would launch another lengthy legal process and could keep him out of federal custody for years.

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