Janice Hughes has begun to pay her debt to society. Whether union members and taxpayers eventually will collect is a different story. On February 7, Hughes received a 51-month prison sentence in federal court for her role in defrauding a union-sponsored trust fund and two federal agencies out of a combined $917,000. Hughes, now 69, is the former office manager of the National Plastering Industry’s Joint Apprenticeship Trust Fund, a nonprofit training organization run by the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association. In addition to her sentence, she will have to pay $911,420.59 in restitution – in other words, virtually all that she and the fund’s then-executive director, Gilbert Wolf, had stolen. After much delay, Wolf is set to go on trial by the end of this month.
In March 2005 a federal grand jury indicted Hughes and Wolf for defrauding the trust fund, plus the U.S. Departments of Labor and the Interior, over a five-year period. Both defendants were charged with six counts of bank fraud, five counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. At her plea-bargain hearing a half-year later, Ms. Hughes, a resident of Easton, Md., admitted that during the period 1995-2000, she developed and engaged in a scheme to write, sign and issue checks to current, former and in some cases fictitious vendors with whom the trust fund purportedly had done business. These checks, along with money from OP & CMIA-affiliated unions and trust funds, employers and contractors, then would be deposited in an account operated by Hughes. Hughes and Wolf used the money to pay for personal expenses such as mortgage payments, car payments, country club memberships, and credit card accounts. The trust fund is still intact, focusing on career training at Job Corps centers. (States News Service, 2/8/07; other sources).