- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Federal prosecutors are seizing funds from a money market account of former Washington Teachers Union office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, who was found guilty last week of participating in a scam to take nearly $5 million in union dues.

The union has filed claim to the $31,178 the government is seizing from a Charles Schwab account in the name of Hemphill and her husband, Lawrence Hemphill.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, said yesterday that on Monday prosecutors sought an official forfeiture order, after the government’s motion in February in U.S. District Court seeking forfeiture of the funds.

Last week, a U.S. District Court jury found Hemphill, 64, and former union Treasurer James Odell Baxter II, 50, guilty of 23 counts each of embezzlement and other charges. Hemphill faces up to 20 years in prison. Their sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Former union President Barbara A. Bullock, 66, testified against Hemphill, Baxter and accountant James A. Goosby, 56, who was found not guilty. Bullock already has pleaded guilty and is serving a nine-year sentence.

Prosecutors also plan to auction such items as mink coats, a silver setting and designer handbags bought with the stolen money to recoup more of the nearly $5 million.

There are no estimates on how much money the auctions will generate or how much the union could receive, Mr. Phillips said.

Union President George Parker said yesterday that the union and the parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, aggressively are pursing claims for the stolen money.

“I think that whatever the amount we get is, it will at least be a small recovery to make teachers whole,” he said.

Mr. Parker said union members were relieved when the criminal trial ended last week.

“We’re glad to have put behind us one of the most unfortunate chapters in our union’s history,” he said.

However, the union and the federation are suing Hemphill, Bullock, Baxter and others under the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

A status hearing in the case has been scheduled for Sept. 21.

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