A federal grand jury has indicted the former chief negotiator for the union representing Buffalo’s teacher’s aides and assistants, charging him with 80 counts of mail fraud and illegally receiving $332,500, according to the indictment.
Frank Aquila, 76, of Amherst, was found by a grand jury to have engaged in a scheme to defraud the Buffalo Educational Support Team (BEST), a union representing roughly 900 teacher’s aides and assistants in Buffalo Public Schools, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced Tuesday.
Between March 2006 and December 2011, Aquila served as BEST’s chief negotiator for its 2008 contract negotiations with the city school district, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr., who is handling the case.
During that period, the union refused to reach a contract settlement with the district unless the district agreed to allow BEST to select its own insurance broker, make commission payments totaling $135,000 per year for four years to the union-selected broker and make four payments to the union of $65,000 for costs and expenses associated with administering the health insurance benefits.
Unbeknownst to the district or the rest of the union, the indictment claims, Aquila received a cut of the commissions paid to the broker and a cut of the administration fees charged to the district.
The indictment was the culmination of an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of the New York Regional Office.
Aquila was arraigned Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott and released on bond.