- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

District and federal law-enforcement officers have seized mountains of evidence in building a case against several former officers of the Washington Teachers' Union, but prosecutors have not yet convened a grand jury to establish charges.
The FBI, with help from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the D.C. Inspector General's Office, has been looking into criminal misconduct suspected of being committed by former teachers union President Barbara A. Bullock; her assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill; and Treasurer James O. Baxter II and others since September, according to court documents.
The three officers, several of their family members and other associates are suspected of embezzling more than $2 million from the union. FBI officials are also investigating charges of money-laundering, tax evasion and mail fraud. Although most of the potentially criminal activity took place after 1998, FBI officials said they are investigating improprieties dating to 1995.
Reports about the suspicious activity began to flow from newspapers and television stations after Ms. Bullock, Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter resigned suddenly in September.
The teachers union and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, began an inquiry after several D.C. teachers complained that they were being overcharged for dues.
The initial investigation proved to be more than they bargained for when it was discovered that the three top officers were apparently lavishing themselves with expensive goods from numerous upscale shops in the region.
The FBI searched homes and businesses last week and seized paintings, electronics equipment including a 50-inch plasma flat-screen television from Mrs. Hemphill's home numerous fur coats belonging to Ms. Bullock and artwork from the Ramee Art Gallery in Mr. Baxter's home. Also listed among items to be seized by federal agents were a $5,500 Baccarat vase, handbags ranging in price from $690 to $2,200, a $6,800 Buccellati silver ice bucket with swan heads on each side, $20,000 worth of wigs purchased from Orreon Styles and 288 pieces of silver, including 24 place settings mailed to Ms. Bullock's home.
Court documents indicate that the three were writing union checks to family members and others to be cashed and then using the money to purchase the goods.
Ms. Bullock lives in a high-rise apartment in the 1200 block of Massachusetts Ave. NW, Mrs. Hemphill in a ranch-style home in the 1900 block of Yorktown Road NW and Mr. Baxter in a two-story home on Lark Lane in Fort Washington.
Other places searched were the home of Cheryl and Michael Martin in Bowie and Mr. Martin's office at the D.C. Department of Health on 14th Street NW; the home of Gwendolyn Clark in Alexandria; and Miller Furs in Chevy Chase, where Ms. Bullock stores her furs, according to federal documents. Mrs. Martin is Mrs. Hemphill's daughter.
There is also evidence that Mr. Baxter did not accurately report his income from the union to the IRS or the Labor Department as required, documents said. In addition, the three "enlisted the aid of an accountant to help them hide the misconduct," the documents said.
Fred C. Cooke, attorney for Mrs. Hemphill, said the case to this point has been overblown.
"Prosecutors are in the early investigation stage, and no charges have been filed," Mr. Cooke said.
He said despite recent news reports to the contrary he has received no hint that a grand jury will be convened to make formal charges.
"All we are doing is responding how we have been asked to respond," Mr. Cooke said. "If we know the answers to their questions, we have told them; and if we don't, we have said so."

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