Graven Townsend had a talent for forging signatures. In the end, he played his hand too often. Townsend, formerly secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 462, pleaded guilty on December 21 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to embezzling nearly $100,000 in funds from the Prattville, Ala. (near Montgomery) union. The case had been investigated by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. He faces a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Townsend, 51, a resident of Millbrook, Ala., began serving as his union’s secretary-treasurer sometime in 2006. It didn’t take long for him to amplify his income illegally. According to court records, during May 2007-August 2009 Townsend embezzled $98,970.76 by writing 149 union checks payable to himself or to cash and then depositing the checks in his own bank account. Although the checks required signatures from the union president as well as from himself, Townsend forged the president’s signature. Eventually, irregularities in financial records led to a Labor Department probe and a Justice Department prosecution. Until sentencing, Townsend remains free on bond.