Ray Ventrone, a former union leader in Pennsylvania and father of ex-NFL player Ross Ventrone, has been sentenced to 41 months behind bars for stealing at least $1.5 million from the union he ran.
Ray Ventrone appeared in court on February 12, 2018 and pleaded guilty to a count of embezzlement and a tax evasion count in connection with failure to report the stolen money. He will serve 41 months in prison and must pay more than $2.5 million to the union, an insurance company, and the IRS.
Ventrone, 60, ran the Boilermakers Local 154 union in Pennsylvania for 19 years and began running his embezzlement scheme back in 2010. He embezzled at least $1.5 million from the union, spending most of it on a hoard of luxury items.
The exact amount of money he embezzled remains uncertain. His plea agreement called for restitution of $2.5 million, but the U.S. attorney’s office said it had evidence to support $1.5 million of stolen money.
Ventrone used the union’s social and building management and education funds to purchase items from various vendors. For instance, he spent $970,000 at Best Buy, $105,000 at the Apple store, $527,000 at Louis Vuitton, $198,000 at Restoration Hardware, $38,000 on musical drums, and $9,000 on his home kitchen.
There was even a point in time when Ventrone owned seven Cadillacs. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak asked in court, “Didn’t it strike anybody that something’s up here?”
Ventrone had purchased so many items that authorities needed nine moving trucks to remove all of the stolen goods from his home. The items were later auctioned off to help recoup some of the stolen money.
Ray Ventrone’s Defense Seeks Leniency
Ventrone’s lawyer, Robert Leight, was looking for a sentence of 24 months. He argued that not all the purchased items were for personal use. In addition, Leight said Ventrone suffers from anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which drove him to make the many purchases.
Character witnesses pointed out the good deeds that Ventrone had done, including setting up a drug treatment program and helping young, at risk-men.
Ventrone’s son Ross Ventrone, 31, who played for the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, said, “My dad is the hardest-working and most giving person that I know. I’m just proud to be his son.”
However, Hornak and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen could not overlook the scope of the harm that had been done. Hornak settled on a longer prison term and repayment of the stolen money.
“It felt good to spend money,” Hornak said of Ray Ventrone. “He doesn’t deserve a break because he has a problem buying.”
Cohen said the union used to have internal controls over expenditures, but these measures vanished over time. He added that Ventrone, whom he called a “classic alpha male,” had become so powerful that no one dared to question him.
During the sentencing hearing, Ventrone wept as he apologized to his son and the union.