Maintenance workers are supposed to be cleaning up buildings, not cleaning out financial accounts. Van T. Barnes didn’t think people would know the difference. Barnes, a longtime maintenance worker employed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 705, pleaded guilty on July 30 in federal court to theft or embezzlement of funds from the Chicago union. And he managed to do it under the guise of running an enterprise.
The local hired Barnes back in 1990 to maintain its properties, which included an auditorium. In addition to maintaining the premises, he also was responsible for ensuring that all rental proceeds from its use were forwarded to the union accounting department. In 1998, he decided to siphon off some of that money by setting up a company, Step Time Productions, listing himself as its registered agent. Over the years, Barnes diverted $97,661 in rental payments to himself and his “company” until the local became suspicious and requested a federal audit. The guilty plea follows a joint investigation by the Department of Labor and the FBI. (U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Semiannual Report to Congress, April 1, 2008-September 30, 2008).