The star witness in the maritime union corruption case against Harry Seidman is heading to federal prison -- despite helping prosecutors and investigators crack an elaborate kickback scheme that cost union members more than $800,000.
Ronald Schoop, 60, was ordered to serve eight months behind bars yesterday for his role in the scheme, which siphoned the money from the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots in Linthicum Heights for nearly 15 years.
Sending a signal
U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg said he wanted the sentence to send a signal that white-collar corruption is a serious crime, and Schoop and Seidman betrayed the trust of of the 7,000-member union that represents ship captains and deck officers around the world.
"Given the magnitude and scope of the embezzlement, some prison time is warranted," Legg told Schoop, who stood quietly in Courtroom 1A, his hands clasped behind his back.
Schoop was the prosecution's star witness. He told jurors during the trial last month how he and Seidman met and how their friendship flourished while they skimmed money from the union.
Schoop ran a graphics company that did printing work for the union. Seidman, 64, was the union's comptroller for nearly 35 years.
Some bills legitimate
Schoop told jurors that Seidman asked him to divide his bills for printing jobs.
Some of the bills were legitimate. Others were not.
Schoop said Seidman gave him union checks to cover the bogus work. Schoop then cashed the checks and kicked most of the money back to Seidman. In exchange, Schoop enjoyed a lucrative printing deal with the maritime union.
Schoop's lawyer said his client should receive probation. Joseph A. Balter, supervisory assistant U.S. public defender, told Legg that Schoop admitted his role in the scheme shortly after he was confronted by a federal agent.
Balter said Schoop cooperated with prosecutors. He wore a "wire" to record conversations with his former friend, and without his testimony, prosecutors couldn't have developed the case and taken Seidman to court, Balter said.
But the prosecutor in the case said the sentence should send a message.
'Penalties to pay'
"The public needs to know that when these kinds of offenses are committed, there are penalties to pay," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ira L. Oring said.
Seidman claimed he didn't embezzle money from the union. Instead, he said he took money from Schoop because his friend was an alcoholic and a gambler. Seidman said he was holding the money in a trust fund for Schoop.
Jurors didn't buy it. They found Seidman guilty Sept. 26. He could be sentenced to five years in prison on each of the 13 embezzlement counts when he is sentenced Dec. 9, but under federal sentencing guidelines, he is more likely to serve several years.
Pub Date: 10/03/96