TAMPA — A "ghost" longshoreman accused of drawing a paycheck for hours he didn't work at Port Tampa Bay has been charged with something more down-to-earth — conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud.
Jerry Reyes was charged June 20 in federal court with conspiring with an unnamed "Individual A" and others in a scheme to defraud Ceres Marine Terminals, a company that provides stevedore and terminal management services to Port Tampa Bay.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will also need to turn over the $10,863 netted from the alleged scheme.
This is the first charge to come from a federal investigation into members of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402 who were accused of getting paid for work they didn't do. Union members raised concerns last year about 10 workers who received payroll checks they shouldn't have for up to five years. The local chapter contracts with Ceres at the port.
Union members told the Tampa Bay Times last June that at least one of the workers had never showed up the waterfront.
If a so-called ghost worker is given a work assignment, another worker loses out on those hours. Depending on how often that happens, union members could fail to meet the required minimum of 700 hours in a 12-month period to qualify for pension, holiday pay benefits and keep their seniority.
The national arm of the union took over the local branch while it investigated. Union officials were not immediately available for comment.
Individual A, who was identified only as an operations manager for Ceres, is portrayed in the indictment as the mastermind of the scam.
"Individual A would and did recruit the defendant, Jerry Reyes, to assist in defrauding Ceres," the indctment says.
Individual A, the indictment said, sent spreadsheets and documents to Ceres falsely reporting that Reyes worked hours on at least three occasions between July 2015 and April 2016.
In return for Individual A's efforts, Reyes paid an undisclosed amount.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.
Contact Malena Carollo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.