Union bosses just can’t say no to luxury. Take Norman Seabrook, the longtime president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) who was recently arrested on fraud charges. His crime? Seabrook allegedly steered $20 million in union money to a hedge fund called Platinum Partners in return for tens of thousands of dollars in personal kickbacks.
The scheme was orchestrated by Seabrook and Murray Huberfield, the hedge fund’s founder, who then coordinated with businessman and Democratic donor Jona Rechnitz. It was Rechnitz who personally delivered those kickbacks—about $60,000 worth—to Seabrook in an $820 Salvatore Ferragamo handbag. (For those keeping track at home, Ferragamo is “one of Seabrook’s favorite stores.”)
The union boss’ reasoning for the backroom deal was simple: “[I]t was time that ‘Norman Seabrook got paid.'”
That’s Seabrook in a nutshell. As The New York Times reported:
Just looking at him, it is clear Mr. Seabrook enjoys life’s finer things. He is driven around town in luxury S.U.V.s, dines at upscale restaurants, smokes fine cigars, and wears expensive tailored suits, often with a pocket square.
And who’s paying for those finer things?
Union members. Soon after Seabrook and Huberfield ironed out the details of their deal in 2013, Seabrook sent the investor $10 million in union annuity funds—derived from mandatory member dues. He then invested two other $5 million payments in Huberfield’s fund over the next few months, leaving “COBA with just over $3 million cash on hand for the union.”
Union members might not be getting a bang for their buck, but Seabrook definitely did—and a luxury handbag to boot.