John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, a former long-serving Philadelphia labor leader, has begun his trial on federal embezzlement charges, accused of misappropriating over $650,000 from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers between 2010 and 2016. 

Federal prosecutors contend that Dougherty spent the embezzled funds on home renovations, meals, concerts, and groceries for himself, family, and friends.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben asserted that Dougherty repeatedly stole and lied, while presenting wiretap recordings as evidence. 

Dougherty, 63, has pleaded not guilty to more than 90 charges, including conspiracy, embezzlement, wire and tax fraud, and falsification of union records. His defense attorneys argue that it’s a case of negligence, not fraud, and that the spending was part of the philosophy that “you have to spend money to make money.” 

Dougherty, the former business manager of the Philadelphia-area IBEW Local 98, was indicted in 2019 after a lengthy FBI investigation and had previously been convicted of conspiracy in a corruption trial in November 2021.