6th Person Indicted for Looting Disaster Relief Fund in Western Virginia

Robert E. Martin Jr. became the sixth person to be indicted for stealing from a disaster relief fund for workers affected by a Radford, Va., plant explosion. The indictment was handed down earlier in Oct. in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for the W. Dist. of Va. The fund was established after an explosion at the Intermet New River Foundry on March 5, 2000. Among the officials of United Steel Workers Local 9336 administering the fund was Martin’s girlfriend, Local Rec. Secy. Elizabeth George. Unlike other workers, Martin was never laid off from the plant as a result of the explosion. But George allegedly funneled $900 in relief payments to Martin between May 30 and June 19.

Four Local officials have already pled guilty for embezzling from the relief fund. But George has been a fugitive since being charged. Last month, police found George and Martin together in West Va. But George snuck away in Martin’s car while he distracted them in conversation. Martin had not previously been charged in the case, but now stands indicted on charges of embezzlement, submission of false disaster relief vouchers, harboring George as a fugitive from justice, and aiding her escape.

In a further development, two of the four officials who have pled guilty were each sentenced to three years probation on Oct. 18. Ex-vice president Rhonda Creed and ex-fin. secy. Joseph Buress confessed, not only to stealing from the relief fund, but also submitting false reimbursement claims for work time supposedly spent on union business from 1996-2000. They were sentenced by Samuel Wilson, Chief Judge of the U.S. West. Dist. of Va. [U.S.A.O. W.D. Va., Roanoke Times & World News]