CHICAGO – The former chief executive of Republic Windows and Doors, the company that abruptly closed here last winter without paying its workers severance and vacation pay, has been arrested and charged as part of a major financial crimes investigation.

Richard Gillman was arrested Sep. 10 and is being accused of moving expensive equipment from the north side plant so he could set up a new non-union company in Red Oak, Iowa called Echo Windows and Doors.

In a press statement the United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110, the union that represents the Republic workers, put the whole ordeal in perspective saying the real problem is bigger especially when it comes to workers rights against unfair labor practices.

“Corruption and abuse of workers rights is rampant in corporate America,” says UE. “Very often where you see violations of workers rights there are other corporate crimes and poor conditions as well,” adds the union.

“Republic Windows and Doors is just one example of something that happens routinely to working people. UE members at Republic Windows and Doors organized and fought back against abuse and won.”

UE said they hope to see justice served in this case, “but we know that many workers suffer and deserve justice as well.”

All workers, says UE, deserve fair labor practices and legislation that ensures penalties for violations of existing labor laws and by aggressively holding corporations accountable when the rights of workers are violated.

Melvin Maclin, vice-president of UE Local 1110 and former Republic worker welcomed the news of Gillman’s arrest.

“We feel like justice has finally come and we hope that this is the beginning of more bosses being held accountable for their crimes against workers,” said Maclin.

UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles, a former Republic maintenance worker notes, “We knew Gillman was lying to us for a long time, now the rest of the world knows it too. Workers suffer with bad bosses all the time so this is a victory for all workers.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office of public corruption and financial crimes, along with the Chicago Police Department’s financial crimes task force, had been investigating Gillman and his business dealings for several months.

Cook County prosecutors say the sudden factory closing was all part of a months-long plot by Republic Windows to loot the business and steal key manufacturing equipment that was taken to the Iowa location.

In a 56-page filing, prosecutors laid out their case saying Gillman and two other undisclosed executives abandoned Republic Window’s crushing debt, stole its assets and secretly trucked the equipment to the Iowa business.

According to prosecutors Gillman and the others defrauded company creditors who were owed at least $10 million and stole more than $200,000 in cash from Republic Windows.

In Bond Court, Assistant State’s Atty. John Mahoney said Gillman and the others began their financial plotting in 2008 when they realized the Chicago business was in dire straits.

Mahoney said they laundered stolen company funds through shell corporations and also removed 10 semi-trailers full of window manufacturing equipment from the Chicago plant. Charges allege they also paid off luxury car leases for themselves.

“And just two weeks before Christmas, in a dire economy, the company shut the doors of their business and deserted their workers and all of their families,” said State’s Atty. Anita Alvarez in a news conference. “That makes the selfish actions of Mr. Gillman and others at his company even more reprehensible.”

Gilman was taken to Cook County jail after Judge Peggy Chiampas set his bail at $10 million.

The business in Red Oak, Iowa, a town of 6,000, apparently failed after a month’s start leaving over 100 people out of work there. Gillman recently took over the Red Oak window company that had been operating since 1985. He promised to keep the business running, critics charge. Yet the company’s closure was announced in February, which hit the town pretty hard. Many of the employees left town and about one-fourth are still looking for new jobs, reports say.

In Chicago nearly 300 workers were left out in the cold last December after Republic announced the plant was closing with only three days notice. The workers and their union UE took charge of the situation and staged a peaceful occupation of the plant for six days.

The sit-in at the factory gained national and international headlines as well as support from many elected officials including President Barack Obama. After three days of talks a settlement was reached with Republic, and its main creditor Bank of America. The workers won their severance and vacation pay as well as two month’s insurance.

Meanwhile California-based Serious Materials, which makes high-efficiency windows and glass, acquired the Chicago factory in February with the aim of hiring all of the former Republic workers. Since then only a dozen have been rehired.