Rosa Della Porta would “say or do anything” to avoid the consequences of her thefts – so argued prosecutors. Unluckily for her, a court came to the same conclusion. On Wednesday, April 1, after a weeklong trial, a Los Angeles federal jury convicted the former bookkeeper for International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 26 for embezzling $108,000 in union funds. Della Porta had served in her position for about a decade until her removal by local officials. She was indicted last August. “We had to have justice, and justice was served,” said Local President Luisa Gratz after the verdict.
Prosecutors maintained that starting in 2003 and continuing over a three-year period, Della Porta, 44, a resident of Highland Park, Calif., conducted a check-cashing scam. She would deposit dues and other payments in the union bank account, but taking out a certain amount for cash, using two different deposit slips for the same transaction. The scheme paid well, enabling her to buy a new BMW. When union officials noticed cash shortfalls, they contacted the U.S. Department of Labor and requested an investigation. The DOL concluded she had stolen the money, and turned the case over to the Justice Department.
Della Porta faces a sentencing hearing on August 3. Union leaders are working with prosecutors to determine the possibility of restitution. “They’re still auditing how much she took, so it may exceed the amount,” said Gratz. ILWU Local 26 represents about 1,000 employees of more than two dozen Southern California firms, especially metal workers and security guards at the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. (Torrance Daily Breeze, 4/2/09; other sources).