- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

Former Washington Teachers Union President Barbara A. Bullock was charged yesterday with conspiracy and mail fraud in the theft of more than $2.5 million in union funds spent on personal luxury items.

Miss Bullock is the highest-ranking official to be charged in the investigation of the teachers union scandal, which has harried city officials and teachers since the union’s parent — the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — reported more than $3 million missing in union dues last year.

Two lesser figures — Michael Wayne Martin and Leroy Holmes — pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and are said to be cooperating with authorities. A third figure, D.C. Department of Health employee Errol Alderman, was charged Tuesday with conspiracy and is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

In an eight-page charging document, Miss Bullock; her former executive assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill; and former union Treasurer James O. Baxter were accused of siphoning off union funds to spend on clothing, meals, travel, art, jewelry, professional sports season tickets, electronic equipment, silver, custom wigs, dental implants and limousine services.

Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter were not identified by name in the document and have not yet been formally charged. No deal has been reached with Mr. Baxter, and an attorney for Mrs. Hemphill said Wednesday that talks between the government and his client for a plea deal were ongoing.

“It was the purpose of the scheme for defendant Barbara A. Bullock, WTU treasurer and executive assistant to enrich themselves and others by stealing millions of dollars from WTU and its individual members, and to hide and cover up the scheme, its objects and the actions taken in furtherance of it,” the charging document stated.

The filing of the document, which is called a criminal information, skips the grand jury investigative process and can only be made with the consent of the accused — a strong indication that Miss Bullock will plead guilty. She is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where the specifics of any plea agreement will be aired.

The criminal information states that Miss Bullock “knowingly and willfully did devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud WTU and its individual members and to obtain their money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.”

Steve Spivack, Miss Bullock’s attorney, did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

Prosecutors said Miss Bullock, Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter had stolen union funds for their own private use from 1995 until last year, when they resigned their positions.

According to prosecutors, Miss Bullock wrote hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks out of a union account to third parties, who then laundered the money and shared the proceeds with her. Miss Bullock falsified Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Labor reports to conceal the theft.

During one pay period, Miss Bullock falsely inflated the dues of the District’s 5,000 teachers by $144 apiece and stole the difference, which totaled $720,000, prosecutors say.

An AFT audit and investigation of a complaint about the excessive dues uncovered the reputed scheme last fall. The FBI, IRS, Labor Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have been conducting a criminal-misconduct investigation into the missing funds since the AFT audit.

Prosecutors said Mr. Alderman and Martin were business partners and opened a bank account on behalf of a fictitious company called Expressions Unlimited that was used to launder $483,543 from the union.

Martin, 43, pleaded guilty April 11 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He remains free without bond.

Holmes, 52, pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to conspiracy to laundering more than $1 million in illegal proceeds. He admitted to cashing $1.2 million in union checks, keeping his $1,875 weekly salary and giving the remaining proceeds to Miss Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill.

Holmes, a former handyman for the union who also served as Miss Bullock’s personal driver, remains free without bond.

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