- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Former Washington Teachers Union (WTU) President Barbara Bullock is scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court, where she is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges in an embezzlement scheme. It has been more than nine months since the FBI raided Miss Bullock’s apartment and carted off boxes and boxes of luxury items that nobody receiving her salary could possibly afford.

In January, the WTU’s see-no-evil parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), announced that the much-belated audit it had finally commissioned revealed that $5 million had been misappropriated. Miss Bullock had used the union’s American Express card to make more than $1.8 million in unauthorized personal charges since 1995, the AFT reported. In a suit filed in federal court on Jan. 16, the AFT charged that Miss Bullock was alsoa responsible for issuing union checks totaling more than $1.5 million in a money-laundering scheme.

In addition, Gwendolyn Hemphill, who served as Miss Bullock’s assistant, is suspected of making $311,000 in unauthorized personal credit-card charges and writing $181,000 in unauthorized union checks. The AFT’s audit also found that WTU Treasurer James Baxter had made $267,000 in unauthorized credit-card charges and had written himself another $270,000 in unauthorized checks from the WTU treasury.

The loot seized by the FBI in various raids on homes and offices included 288 pieces of Tiffany silver, $20,000 worth of wigs, a $5,500 Baccarat vase, a $6,800 Buccellati silver ice bucket, handbags ranging in value from $690 to $2,200, Rosendorf-Evans fur coats, a 50-inch plasma flat-screen television. The evidentiary windfall of ill-gotten merchandise and a paper trail helped ensure that U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. methodically proceed and assemble his best case.

On Friday, Miss Bullock was finally charged with participating in a scheme to plunder “well over $2.5 million” from the WTU’s treasury. Prosecutors earlier obtained guilty pleas from Miss Bullock’s chauffeur, Leroy Holmes, and from Mrs. Hemphill’s son-in-law, Michael Martin, who admitted involvement in the money-laundering conspiracy. Facing nearly 20 years in prison, Miss Bullock, 65, reportedly has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a 10-year sentence. That is the absolute minimum she should serve. If she balks at the last minute, a trial should begin as soon as possible. If found guilty, she deserves the maximum term.

Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter reportedly have rejected comparable plea agreements. Fine. Let their trials begin as quickly as possible, and let the maximum prison sentences be in play.

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