- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

The ongoing federal probe of the Washington Teachers Union broadened yesterday as authorities charged four more former officials in a seven-year embezzlement scheme that cost D.C. teachers at least $4.6 million.

A federal grand jury yesterday returned a 27-count indictment against Gwendolyn Hemphill, 62, former executive assistant to the union president, and James O. Baxter II, 49, former union treasurer, on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud money laundering, and making false statements to federal officials. If convicted, Mrs. Hemphill, a D.C. resident who was active in politics, and Mr. Baxter, of Fort Washington, each face more than 19 years in prison.

The indictment also named James A. Goosby, 54, a tax preparer from Upper Marlboro, and Robin J. Klein, 51, a certified public accountant from Rockville, who are accused of helping hide the theft of union funds by falsifying financial records. The two face up five years in prison each if convicted.

WTU spokesman Terence Cooper said the union was glad to learn of the additional charges filed yesterday.

“We think these people betrayed the trust of the union and its members. As the investigation proceeds and as the appropriate people are brought to justice, that is something we applaud,” Mr. Cooper said.

Federal authorities said the four individuals charged yesterday conspired to steal at least $720,000 from the 5,000 union members through withholding $144 from members’ salaries in June 2002. They used the stolen funds to buy clothes, art, electronics and tickets to sporting and entertainment events.

The charges come a month after Errol Alderman, a D.C. Department of Health employee, became the fourth person to plead guilty in the embezzlement scandal. He admitted laundering $483,543 through Expressions Unlimited, a company created to steal union funds.

Former WTU President Barbara A. Bullock, 66, faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty last month to conspiracy and mail fraud for her role in stealing union funds. Leroy Holmes, Bullock’s former chauffeur and Michael Martin, Mrs. Hemphill’s son-in-law, also have pleaded guilty in the scheme.

Current WTU officials said they were not surprised by the charges.

“The union was the victim,” said Mr. Cooper. “It was the union and its members who approached the Justice Department and asked that this investigation be conducted.”

Prosecutors contend that the theft of union funds began in 1995 and continued until last year, when Bullock, Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter resigned their positions.

Bullock has admitted writing union checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to third parties who then laundered the money and shared it with her.

The union officials spent the funds on more than $500,000 in custom clothing and $100,000 for Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards season tickets.

Prosecutors also say $40,000 in stolen union funds were used to pay for dental expenses for Mrs. Hemphill and her family.

In legal papers, authorities say the officials also wrote checks to themselves for “professional services,” “expense reimbursements” or “pension payments.”

The scheme forced the WTU to default on its rent, dues, and members’ pension payments. Prosecutors believe that the union lost nearly $5 million over seven years through the embezzlement scheme.

“The Justice Department has had its work cut out, which has been to identify and bring to justice the guilty parties,” Mr. Cooper said. “Our work is to rebuild the union and retain the trust and the confidence of our members.”

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, yesterday said the stolen items would be auctioned off by the U.S. Marshal Service.

Proceeds from that auction could be used to pay back the union.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide