The pattern is at once familiar and depressing. A union boss, employee or contractor has a gambling problem, goes deep in debt, and dips into the till to cover the losses – at least until records reveal a discrepancy and eventually point to the guilty party. The latest example of such self-destruction is Colleen Louise Rieck, a resident of New Prague, Minn., about half-hour’s drive southwest of the Twin Cities suburbs. Rieck, 53, until recently worked as a claims payer for Wilson-McShane Corp., a Bloomington, Minn.-based third-party benefits administrator for unionized employees; the company is certified by the Department of Labor under the Taft-Hartley Act. For more than a year until her arrest this May, Rieck had stolen more than $885,000 from her company, mainly to feed a gambling problem. On October 23, she pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to six counts of felony theft. She is expected to receive a prison sentence of eight years and four months, plus 10 years probation.
According to the criminal complaint, Rieck made out 415 checks to herself during January 2005-April 2006. She would create accounts in her own name using the Social Security number of eligible participants, and then create fictitious medical and prescription-drug claims. After the house of cards fell, she admitted to investigators that she stole primarily to pay for gambling, adding that she used some of the money to buy a new Dodge Charger and a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Wilson-McShane President Matt Winkle is not pleased by the turn of events. “I consider this very personal,” he said. “These funds are entrusted to myself and the people of this company, and to have somebody that is employed by us violate that trust, I take very personally.” He gave assurances that despite the embezzlement, none of the benefit plans managed by his company would be in jeopardy. (WCCO-TV, Minneapolis, 5/13/06; Associated Press, 10/23/06; Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 10/24/06).