- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2011

Four years ago, Caleb A. Gray-Burriss, founder of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO), insisted he had the support of his members amid a federal investigation into his handling of pension dues and health-benefit funds.

“Upon the conclusion of the government’s investigation, we are confident Mr. Gray-Burriss will be vindicated,” an attorney for the union leader told The Washington Times after reports of a 2007 federal raid at the union. The union represents private security guards assigned to federal buildings throughout Washington.

But since then, Mr. Gray-Burriss‘ legal woes have gotten worse.

Last year, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Gray-Burriss with mail fraud in connection with his operation of a union pension plan, accusing him of mishandling more than $100,000 in dues from June 2004 to August 2006. He also was charged in 2010 in a superseding indictment with obstruction of justice, contempt and recordkeeping offenses.

The latest charges accuse Mr. Gray-Burriss of stealing more than $115,000 in union funds for unauthorized salary increases, bonuses, cash withdrawals from ATMs and reimbursement for trips to casinos and for dental work.

An attorney for Mr. Gray-Burriss was not available for comment last week, but recent court records suggest plea talks soon could be under way. Mr. Gray-Burriss pleaded not guilty to the initial indictment last year. He has been removed as the signatory on all union bank accounts and surrendered the union’s debit card, according to court records.

In a recent court filing, his attorney asked a judge to order that a probation office report be completed on Mr. Gray-Burriss before a plea deal.

“The facts of this case are so complicated that an offense level and guideline calculation before plea would inform the parties and permit a more realistic negotiation for the defendant,” the defense motion stated.

Since the criminal case began, prosecutors have sought to revoke Mr. Gray-Burriss‘ bail, but a judge opted instead to place him into a “high-intensity supervision program,” which often involves home confinement and strict curfews.

Authorities say Mr. Gray-Burriss founded the union in 1993 and for years served as its primary officer and sole employee. For years, his handling of the union finances has been scrutinized.

In 2007, The Times reported that federal agents executed a search warrant for the union’s office near Union Station and for Mr. Gray-Burriss‘ home, seizing union records, brochures, computer equipment, checks and bank statements.

In response, an attorney for Mr. Gray-Burriss at the time, Howard R. Schmuckler, said, “Despite unsubstantiated allegations, Mr. Gray-Burriss still enjoys the support of the majority of NASPSO’s membership.” He also said Mr. Gray-Burriss‘ union had been “besieged by rival unions in hostile takeover attempts.”

At the time, the attorney said Mr. Gray-Burriss had started the union in the basement of his home more than a decade earlier with no members and it had grown to include about 800 members in the Washington area.

Mr. Schmuckler is not listed as an attorney for Mr. Gray-Burriss in the pending court case. In an unrelated case, Mr. Schmuckler was disbarred in Washington after the bar learned of his conviction in a bankruptcy fraud case in California. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced the arrest of Mr. Schmuckler last month in a mortgage fraud case.

In court documents in the Gray-Burriss case, prosecutors said that from August 2008 to February 2011 he used union dues for, among other things, ATM withdrawals at Dover Downs casino in Delaware; a trip to the the Borgota Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.; purchases at Best Buy, Macy’s, a car dealership in Virginia and Ticketmaster; payments via the website for paying D.C. parking and speed-camera tickets; and tabs at a jazz club in the District.