Missouri Boss Admits $18,500 Theft

Ex-boss of Am. Fed’n Musicians Local 150, James Steven Call, admitted embezzling $18,536.50 from the Branson, Mo., based local which represented entertainers in Mo., Kan., Okla., and Ark. He entered a guilty plea Nov. 29 to a one-count information before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England, and U.S. Dist. Judge Ortrie D. Smith (W.D. Mo., Clinton) will sentence Call at a date to be determined.

The scheme ran from Apr. 1997 to Mar. 1999. The local was placed in trusteeship by the int’l union in 1995 because of financial difficulties; as the the trusteeship was ending, int’l trustee Theresa Gafford made a poor judgment of character and groomed Call to run the local. He was elected president and secretary-treasurer in Apr. 1997. In an apparent cost-cutting move, Call relocated the local’s office to his leased house on about May 1, 1997. He received no salary from the local, but the local’s board agreed to pay him $100 for rent and utility-related costs of running the local out of his home plus any expense he incurred in the course of his work for the local.

Call did not have a personal checking account during the period of the scheme. Instead, Local 150 had a single checking account and Call used it as joint account. He reportedly wrote checks to himself, his disabled wife, other relatives, and cash for his personal benefit. According to the plea agreement he also used the checking account for personal groceries, restaurant meals, books, magazines, compact disks, videos, household supplies (e.g., diapers, toothpaste), school pictures, toys, fishing gear, clothing, cable, and dues for memberships in the Int’l Ass’n of Elec. Inspectors and the Building Code Ass’n. Further, while the local’s office occupied one room of the house, the union paid Call’s full rent and electric, sewer, trash, and water bills in excess of the agreed $100 amount.

A total of more than 300 checks were involved. Also, he admitted to making false entries on check stubs and monthly financial reports to conceal the personal nature of some of the expenses. In total, he took $21,936.50 from the union account for his personal use but deposited $3,400; thus, the net embezzlement was $18,536.50. Call was represented by a public defender, R. Steven Brown. Call agree to make full restitution to the union and has already begun doing so. Call was removed from office on Mar. 1999 by the int’l union. The int’l closed down the local in 2000 and assigned its members to Local 257 in Nashville.  [USAO W.D. Mo. 12/17/01; DOL 11/29/01]