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Teamsters movie crew includes some bad actors

Teamsters movie crew includes some bad actors
By Jack Sullivan
The Boston Herald
July 27, 2000
Web posted at: 11:38 AM EDT (1538 GMT)

In this story:

A motley crew

Filmmakers have no choice

RELATED STORIES Downward pointing arrow

BOSTON, Massachusetts (The Boston Herald) -- The Boston Teamsters movie crew targeted by a federal grand jury has found work for a rogues gallery of criminals, including seven men tied to a murderous armored car heist as well as the disgraced former Middlesex sheriff, according to sources and records.

``It's a crew of Damon Runyon characters,'' said one Teamster member who has watched the select group garner the bulk of the lucrative film-related work that pays drivers $2,000 a week plus hundreds in expenses.

In addition, the Herald has learned that federal investigators have subpoenaed records from Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Productions, a major Hollywood studio that filmed the recently released movie ``What Lies Beneath'' in Vermont last year.

The revelations come as more producers spilled horror stories about dealing with the alleged strong-arm tactics of Teamsters Local 25.

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A federal grand jury, the Department of Labor's racketeering unit and the FBI have launched probes into the union's dealings, including no-show jobs, padded overtime and expense bills and forced rental of equipment owned by James P. Flynn, a crew chief with alleged Mob ties, according to sources.

``When they see a cash cow, they milk it for all it's worth,'' one industry insider said yesterday.

A motley crew

According to sources, at least seven of the eight men cited by investigators in the 1994 robbery and executions of two armored car guards in New Hampshire have worked on movies filmed in New England.

Stephen Burke, Michael O'Halloran and Matthew McDonald, who are serving life sentences for killing the two guards in the Hudson, N.H., robbery, were all members of the Charlestown-based Local 25 before their convictions, according to sources.

Patrick ``Magoo'' McGonagle, who is serving a 30-year sentence for the same crime, was a driver on a number of made-in-the-Bay State films, including ``Blown Away'' and ``The Good Son,'' according to records.

Michael Yandle, convicted of lying about the robbery before turning prosecution witness, was given several days work on a film shot on the North Shore during a work-release stint in 1998.

One current crew chief, William O'Brien, was cited by a grand jury indictment in the armored car robbery as the person who ordered a rental car that was used as a getaway in the crime. O'Brien, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, is currently working on the MGM movie ``What's the Worst That Could Happen?'' being filmed in the Boston area.

One source said labor department investigators began eyeing union activities in the mid-1990s after the men's connections to Local 25 became apparent but that probe was abruptly halted for unknown reasons.

Also on the MGM set is John McGonigle, the Middlesex County sheriff convicted in a kickback scheme that ended in a prison term. Sources said McGonigle, who was not a Teamster member prior to being released, scored a slot on the film crew unit through his connections to Flynn and union president George Cashman.

One source said McGonigle had to receive permission from his parole officer to work on the set of ``What Lies Beneath'' last year because the film was being shot in Vermont, where Local 25 controls the contract. McGonigle, who could not be reached yesterday, also got a plum assignment on ``The Perfect Storm.''

It was unclear if McGonigle's work with convicted felons violates his parole conditions.

``Everybody is (angry) because he jumped over a lot of guys with seniority,'' said one member.

In addition, other members described by officials as ``low-level hoods'' are favored members of the union who get constant work on movies, tapped by Flynn and Cashman, sources said.

Among those are Gilbert ``Gigi'' Eatherton and William Coyman, both Charlestown natives who have armed robbery convictions, according to one investigator.

Filmmakers have no choice

Flynn, whose Weymouth home was raided by investigators in the probe last month, is the transportation coordinator on all the films he works on. Among his responsibilities is managing the contract that the union has negotiated with producers and ensuring it comes in at budget.

But sources said Flynn routinely adds unnecessary workers - always friends - once filming is under way, and has been confronted about padding overtime and expense slips.

``(Industry officials) don't have a problem with signing the labor contract,'' said one insider familiar with the union. ``It's the unsigned contract that gets them. Things like the no-show jobs at 1,500 bucks-plus, forcing them to deal with Jimmy (Flynn), threats, things like that.''

Flynn's alleged actions on DreamWorks' ``What Lies Beneath'' and the thriller ``In Dreams,'' which was filmed in Western Massachusetts in 1997, are at the center of the records investigators have looked at from the studio.

According to sources, investigators are eyeing filmmakers' use of Flynn's company, Location Connection, which rents movie equipment. Among the items are make-up trailers and a piece of equipment called a ``honey wagon,'' a portable bathroom for changing and make-up.

According to sources, when Local 25, which controls movie contracts in Massachusetts and northern New England, negotiates with producers, union officials force the filmmakers to use Flynn's equipment.

``Sometimes they need it, sometimes they can get it somewhere else but they always have to get it from Jimmy,'' said one source familiar with negotiations. ``They get very disgruntled.''

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