A top Ironworkers union leader who approved the use of violence and intimidation to maintain a grip on city construction jobs was sentenced Thursday to eight years in federal prison.

Edward Sweeney, 56, was a business agent for Ironworkers Local 401 when he OK'd attacks on nonunion jobsites to ensure jobs for the local's 700 members.  He pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to counts of racketeering conspiracy, extortion and arson.  Sweeney is the ninth of 12 defendants to be sentenced for his role in the ongoing RICO conspiracy case.

Prosecutors said it was Sweeney who provided the acetylene torch that burned down a Quaker meetinghouse under construction in Chestnut Hill, strong-armed builders into hiring union members for no-work jobs, assented to the extortion of a of a company building a Center City communications tower, and signed off on an arson in Grays Ferry and an attempted arson in Malvern.

In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ordered Sweeney to pay $217,000 restitution and  serve three years of supervised release.

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com. Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.
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