Local 757 of the Amalgamated Transit Union for years paid a price for Thomas V. Wallace‘s gambling habit. Now it’s time to collect. Wallace, financial secretary and treasurer of the Portland, Oregon union since 1997, pleaded guilty to federal court on May 20 to one count of forgery in connection with massive thefts from a possibly fictitious benefit fund. He admitted to forging checks drawn upon union bank accounts. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Wallace, 50, had forged 176 checks totaling about $454,000 during 2000-06. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. His punishment may be lessened by the fact that he already had partly repaid the union by February 2007 when the offenses came to light.
The case originated in 2005 when the union rank-and-file transit agency employer, Tri-Met, filed a complaint after it couldn’t verify the existence of a union-run fund for elderly and child care to which the agency had contributed. Following an FBI-assisted probe, the Department of Labor concluded that Wallace’s withdrawals from the fund were fraudulent. Local 757 President Jon Hunt wrote a letter to union members indicating the nature of the offenses. Wallace’s case wasn’t the first of its kind, and given the widespread appeal of gambling, it probably won’t be the last. (Portland Oregonian, 5/21/08).