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Union boss faces up to 130 years for embezzlement

The former president of a major California union faces up to 130 years behind bars when he is sentenced on April 27 for embezzling almost $800,000 in health care funds. The sentencing hearing was scheduled after a Los Angeles jury returned guilty verdicts on 12 counts of theft, one count of conspiracy and one count of making a false statement to the U.S. government on Feb. 12. Evidence of witness intimidation emerged during the trial, which prompted the presiding judge to order the 73-year-old Loma Linda resident to remain in custody pending his sentencing.

During a trial lasting five days, the jury heard evidence that the man stole funds from the United Industrial and Service Workers of America health care plan while he was the union's president and the fund's trustee. U.S. attorneys introduced evidence indicating that the man used the money to pay personal expenses including legal fees and to buy a sports car for his son. The man's wife, son and daughter were also indicted by federal authorities, but they chose to avoid court proceedings by entering into plea agreements. These agreements required them to testify at the man's trial.

Investigators followed an electronic and paperwork trail to trace the stolen money. These efforts led them to discover that an amount of more than $300,000 was transferred to a Nevada-based shell company owned by the man. These financial irregularities led to the man being charged for filing false information with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Criminal defense attorneys with experience in federal white-collar crime cases may encourage individuals facing embezzlement or fraud charges to seek a negotiated settlement when presented with facts like these. This is because U.S. attorneys are less likely to lose in court, and the chances of an acquittal become more remote when members of the defendant's family agree to give evidence against them.

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