Four Teamsters in Boston acquitted of 'Top Chef' extortion plot

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BOSTON (Reuters) – Four Teamsters union members in Boston were acquitted on Tuesday of charges they tried to extort jobs from a production company filming “Top Chef” in 2014 through thuggish tactics that included threatening host Padma Lakshmi.

A federal jury in Boston found Daniel Redmond, John Fidler, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross not guilty of conspiracy and attempted extortion charges over what prosecutors said was an effort to secure wages for unwanted services from the non-union company.

Prosecutors claimed the Teamsters were trying to secure wages for unnecessary services as drivers during the filming of “Top Chef,” which had hired non-union workers for those positions while filming throughout the Boston area.

Defense lawyers argued the Teamsters Local 25 members were engaged in legitimate picketing as the union tried to negotiate to secure jobs.

Prosecutors said that on June 5, 2014, Redmond approached the show’s crew while it was filming at a hotel, demanded union members be hired as drivers and told a producer to call Mark Harrington, his union supervisor.

They said several locations withdrew from participating in the show after the union threatened to picket them, prompting production company Magical Elves to film at the Steel & Rye restaurant in the suburb of Milton that June 10.

Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at the restaurant and members of the group chest-bumped and threatened crew members and blocked food deliveries, prosecutors said.

Witnesses had testified that some Teamsters also swarmed a van bringing Lakshmi to the set. Prosecutors claim that included Fidler, who they said stuck his arm into her van and said, “I’ll smash your pretty little face.”

Harrington was sentenced in December to six months in prison after pleading guilty in the case.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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