- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A U.S. District Court jury yesterday found two former Washington Teachers Union officials guilty of taking part in a scheme to steal nearly $5 million in union dues from 1995 to 2002.

Former union office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, 64, and former union Treasurer James Odell Baxter II, 50, each was found guilty on 23 counts that included conspiracy, embezzlement, money laundering and wire fraud.

“We are very pleased,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Cooper said after the verdict. “It’s been a long road, and we’re glad [they] were finally brought to justice.”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Hemphill faces at least 160 months in prison. Baxter faces a sentence of at least 97 months. They are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8.

A third defendant, former union accountant James A. Goosby, 56, was acquitted on all charges of helping to cover up the thefts.

“Obviously it’s our view that Mr. Goosby was guilty, but it’s reasonable that the jury concluded otherwise,” Mr. Cooper said.

He said eight of nine persons prosecuted have been convicted.

Five other former union officials found guilty in the scandal are awaiting sentencing. Former union President Barbara A. Bullock, 66, has pleaded guilty and is serving nine years in prison.

Hemphill and Baxter were charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting in the thefts. Prosecutors said they uncovered the scheme in 2002 when those involved tried to deduct $16 in dues from teachers’ paychecks, instead of the usual $1.60.

The two-month trial included testimony about Bullock using union money to purchase fur coats, fashionable clothing, silverware, a champagne cooler and other luxury items.

Prosecutors said Bullock shared the stolen money with Hemphill and Baxter.

Other purchases by union officials included $77,181 worth of tickets to the Washington Bullets and Wizards basketball games, antique armoires, and Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags.

Many of the purchases were concealed through the use of a union American Express card and through Expressions Unlimited, a shell company created to conduct business with the union.

Attorneys said Expressions received more than $574,000 and was founded by Errol Alderman and Hemphill’s son-in-law Michael Martin. They have pleaded guilty in the case.

One of the largest sums, $1.4 million, went to Bullock’s chauffeur, Leroy Holmes, over six years.

At the trial, Holmes testified that his responsibility of driving Bullock gradually grew into delivering checks to various offices, banks and people. Holmes testified that he often cashed checks and stuffed his pockets with $100 bills to deliver to Hemphill.

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