Union negotiator admits lining his own pockets

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The chief negotiator for a union representing teacher’s aides and assistants in the City of Buffalo has pleaded guilty to charges he refused to reach a final agreement in an effort to line his own pockets.

Frank Aquila, 76, of Amherst represented Buffalo Educational Support Team (BEST), a union representing around 900 employees in the Buffalo School District, from March 2006 and December 2011.

In 2008, he worked for BEST to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the city, but prosecutors say refused to reach a final agreement unless these three conditions were met:

  1. BEST could select its own insurance broker
  2. BEST can make commission payments totaling $135,000 per year for four years to an insurance broker selected by BEST
  3. The city agreed to make four payments to BEST of $65,000 each for costs and expenses associated with administering health insurance benefits for its members

Prosecutors say Aquila failed to tell BEST or city officials that he would share in commissions paid to the insurance broker and in payments made to BEST to administer health insurance benefits for its members.

Aquila pleaded guilty Monday to fraud involving a scheme to defraud BEST, which prosecutors say netted him $332,500.

He will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison.

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