Virginia Bosses Indicted for Stealing From Disaster Fund

Five union bosses of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 9336 in Radford, Va., were indicted Feb. 19 with embezzling more than $10,000 that was paid the Local 9336 Disaster Relief Fund established after a fatal explosion at the Intermet New River Foundry in Mar. 2000. The fund was earmarked for workers affected by the explosion, in which three workers were killed. About $22,500 was raised. Some workers were facing foreclosure, repossession, and eviction as a result of the subsequent plant shutdown.

The five are charged with making payments to themselves totaling $11,856 from the Fund, while denying payments to workers in greater need. Allegedly, they didn’t publicize the fund and made payments to themselves after they had gone back to work or on paid sick leave. William E. Fricker, ex-local president, is charged with stealing $3,154; Edward A. Ramsey, ex-president and vice president, $1,101; Joseph W. Burress, ex-financial secretary, $1,276; Rhonda L. Creed, ex-grievance committee chairwoman, $1,239; and Elizabeth J. George, an unidentified officer, $4,186. George, who never returned to the foundry, is also charged with approving $900 in unauthorized payments to Robert E. “Robbie” Martin, with whom she had a “relationship.” Martin wasn’t charged.

All but George were also charged in a second scheme which secured about $10,809 from false or excessive claims for “lost time”–they allegedly double-billed the local for lost time for which they were also paid by the foundry. Further, some submitted claims at excessive pay rates. Fricker is charged with stealing $3,217; Ramsey, $3,964; Burress, $1,745, and Creed, $1,883. The 19-count indictment included charges of conspiracy to embezzle, conspiracy to make false entries in union records, embezzlement, and false entries. If convicted, the four face up to 17 years in prison and a $950,000 fine. George faces 11 years in prison and a $600,000 fine. The union reported the schemes to the Dep’t of Labor. The five surrendered to federal authorities on Feb. 21 in Roanoke.

“We are saddened that there may have been people who tried to profit from the tragedy of others,” said Mike Kelly, communications manager at Intermet’s headquarters in Troy, Mich. “These things happen. . . . It’s strictly a matter between the Department of Labor and certain former officials of the union.”  [Roanoke (Va.) Times 2/21-22/02; USAO W.D. Va. 2/19/02]