- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Teamsters, National Education Association and other unions often are criticized for misusing their tax-exempt status and their members' union dues to lobby federal and state authorities. There also is the occasional union embezzlement story. Nothing, though, has hit as close to home as the fraud and embezzlement charges that have engulfed the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU).
In a recently released affidavit, the FBI says that its ongoing invesitgation unravels a conspiracy involving at least three top officials with the WTU, including the former president and treasurer, and that the serious felonies the committed include money laundering, embezzlement and tax evasion. "Although a complete accounting of the losses to the union has not been finalized, investigation to date reveals that these persons converted well in excess of $2 million in union funds to their personal use," the Dec. 18 affidavit says. To conceal their illegal tracks, the accused prepared false and misleading personal tax returns, and they tried to mislead the IRS and the Labor Department regarding union expenses, the affidavit says.
The federal investigation began after WTU officials uncovered unjustified increases in members' dues. That probe, in turn, led to notification of WTU's parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, and that led to the resignation of then-WTU President Barbara Bullock, her key aide Gwen Hemphill and then-Treasurer James Baxter. A fourth union employee was fired.
What's been truly startling in the case is the list of expensive jewels, fine furs, designer clothing, and other high-priced goods and services that the three WTU officials reportedly paid for with teachers' dues. Moreover, the union employees aren't believed to be the only ones involved in the scheme. The affidavit names relatives and friends of Ms. Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill, and the tax preparer who reportedly tried to mislead the IRS is named as well.
Recent FBI searches of AFT and WTU records, as well as seizures at the homes of union officials and others provided a wealth of insight into where the dues money came from as well as where it went. On Christmas Day, teachers learned still more bad news: Payments on their health-care benefits may have been misused, dues payments to the AFT were often late, and the WTU often fell behind on payments for rent and utilities. Guess WTU officials were too busy shopping.

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