A Northeast Philadelphia contractor admitted in court Monday that he provided home repairs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to labor leader John J. Dougherty and members of his family, and was paid with money allegedly embezzled from Dougherty’s union.
Anthony Massa, 66, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, theft, and embezzlement of labor union assets in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl.
His plea makes him the third person to admit guilt as part of the investigation that led to the indictment last year of Dougherty, City Councilmember Bobby Henon, and five other officials and members of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
But unlike others who have pleaded guilty in the case in public court hearings, Massa entered his plea Monday was shrouded in secrecy. The proceeding took place with no prior notice on the court’s public docket, and all records related to it, which appeared on the electronic docket after 9 p.m. Monday, remain under court seal after an order from the judge that was sealed as well. Two sources familiar with the matter but not authorized to publicly discuss it briefed The Inquirer on the details of Massa’s guilty plea.
Massa’s attorney, William J. Brennan, declined on Tuesday to discuss his client’s case or whether he had agreed to provide testimony at Dougherty’s trial, which is scheduled for September.
The other defendants who have admitted guilt — New Jersey electrician George Peltz and chiropractor James Moylan — both publicly said they would not testify against Dougherty. And both have already been sentenced, a sign that the deals they struck with prosecutors were not contingent upon their cooperating in the ongoing case.
If Massa were to become a witness for the government, he would be the first person in Dougherty’s orbit to strike a plea deal to testify against the labor leader, known widely by the nickname “Johnny Doc,” in the more than a decade he has been dogged by FBI investigations.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to confirm or deny Tuesday that Massa had entered a guilty plea.
Brennan, however, said: “There’s a lot of fine people in this indictment that still remain presumed innocent.”
Massa, owner of Massa Construction Corp. in the city’s Bustleton section, has long benefited from Local 98 and its executives.
According to union filings with the Department of Labor, his company received nearly $100,000 in market recovery funds — payments meant to subsidize labor costs for union contractors — between 2005 and 2016 and was paid nearly $2 million between 2010 and 2016 for construction and repair work at Local 98 buildings. Henon paid him out of his campaign coffers for renovations on his Council office as well.
But the 2019 indictment cast doubt on some of that work, alleging that invoices totaling nearly $400,000 that Massa submitted to Local 98 were actually to compensate him for improvement projects at Dougherty’s South Philadelphia home, and other residences and businesses owned by members of his family and union officials. Massa initially denied it when approached by federal agents in 2016, leading prosecutors to also charge him with lying to the FBI.
More than $35,000 allegedly went to install a new front door and repair water leaks in Dougherty’s house. Prosecutors say union president Brian Burrows received a new walk-in closet and fence, master bathroom renovations, and air-conditioning repairs to his home in Mount Laurel — improvements worth more than $48,000.
Those projects came as Massa allegedly undertook additional work at the home of Michael Neill, the head of the union’s apprentice training program, as well as at a building Neill owned with Burrows in Pennsport and Doc’s Union Pub, a bar he and Burrows previously owned with Dougherty.
The Inquirer has also previously identified Dougherty’s father, John J. Dougherty Sr., and brother, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dougherty, as two of 10 unnamed and uncharged members of the labor leader’s family who prosecutors say were also beneficiaries of work from Massa or other perks paid for with Local 98 funds.
According to the indictment, Massa was paid more than $5,000 from the union’s general fund to repair water damage at the elder Dougherty’s house in Somers Point, N.J., in 2015 and an unspecified sum for painting and other construction projects at Kevin Dougherty’s home in November 2011.
Kevin Dougherty’s lawyer, Courtney Saleski, has previously denied that her client did anything wrong in relation to Massa, describing the justice as “an honest public servant.” Kevin Dougherty was elected to the court in 2015 but before that was a Common Pleas Court judge since 2001.
A spokesperson for John Dougherty declined to comment Tuesday on Massa’s guilty plea, but the labor leader has repeatedly maintained that he did not break the law.
He, Henon, and the other indicted Local 98 members have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.