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A former business agent of Operating Engineers Local 17 on Wednesday became the second former official of the union to plead guilty to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy.

Gerald H. Franz Jr., 48, pleaded guilty to felony crimes before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

He was one of 12 members of the local arrested in April 2008 after a lengthy investigation by the FBI and U.S. Labor Department.

The investigation focused on threats, vandalism and harassment of non-union contractors and workers at construction sites throughout Western New York, according to Charles B. Wydysh, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office.

If Skretny follows advisory sentencing guidelines, Franz could face at least 46 months in prison, plus fines up to $250,000 and restitution orders up to $500,000, Wydysh said.

Franz's guilty plea comes a little more than two months after a former colleague, James L. Minter III, became the first of the defendants to take a guilty plea since the arrests in 2008.

An official appointed by the operating engineers international union took over Local 17, which is based in Lake View, after the arrests.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com