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Former VA Union Local Official Sentenced for Embezzlement

A former treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 331 pleaded guilty in May to stealing more than $80,000 from the union.

A former local union leader in Maryland last week was sentenced to two years in prison, after she pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $80,000 in American Federation of Government Employees funds over a period of three years.

On Sept. 10, U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow sentenced Annette Jones to two years in prison for bank fraud, followed by three years of probation. Jones is former treasurer of AFGE Local 331, which represents workers at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Perry Point, Md.

According to her plea agreement, Jones stole at least $80,944.80 in union funds between 2012 and 2015 by writing herself checks from the union. And between 2014 and 2015, she used a union-issued credit card to pay for $1,235.93 in personal expenses.

As treasurer of the local, she had exclusive control over the union’s checkbook, and she falsified financial records to conceal the fact that she was paying herself money on a regular basis.

“Jones frequently recorded false information regarding the business purpose of the fraudulent union checks she forged and negotiated, or recorded no information at all about the business purpose of such checks,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “Jones also provided false information about the union’s finances to the executive board and the union membership, caused reports to be submitted to the federal government that falsely certified the amount of money she received from the union, and lied to the union’s independent auditor.

Jones’ actions were discovered after the local’s vice president overheard Jones trying via phone to buy a smartphone for a family member using the union credit card.

“The [union] president later conducted a search of Jones’ office and found two uncashed union checks made payable to Jones on which it appeared that the president’s signature had been forged,” the Justice Department said. “The union president then met with the manager of the bank where the union’s account was held, and reviewed each of the checks to Jones that had been drawn on the union’s account during the preceding three months. The union president’s signature had been forged on all of them.”

The union immediately removed her from her position, and she resigned from the VA soon afterward, prosecutors said. Although Jones agreed to return a union-issued laptop when she was removed, she never did so, according to her plea agreement.

In addition to her prison sentence, Jones is required to pay $82,180.73 in restitution to the union.

AFGE did not return a request for comment Friday.