Queens, N.Y. Steelworkers Ex-Boss Charged with Embezzlement

Juan “Alex” Cedeno no doubt had his share of problems. But his partying only added to them. On May 5, Cedeno, formerly president of United Steelworkers Local 4-318 in Queens, N.Y., was arrested after being charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York with embezzling nearly $60,000 from the union benefit fund and co-signing more than $35,000 worth of union checks to cover his tracks. He allegedly used the health and welfare fund credit card to charge purchases for meals, entertainment, travel and retail spending in New York City, Las Vegas and elsewhere. The charge and arrest follow a joint investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Federal prosecutors say that Cedeno, a resident of Queens, used his union benefit credit card during April 2009-October 2011 to roll up $58,303 in unauthorized charges. He spent much of the money at various local strip clubs and a Hooters restaurant. If babes weren’t catching his fancy, the prospect of sunny days at the beach and lucrative nights at the casino were. He rang up charges for air fare, rental cars and hotel stays for trips to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He also bought merchandise from Best Buy, Guess Jeans and other retailers. Early in his spending spree, Cedeno hid the expenditures by co-signing checks from the union general fund and transferring them to the benefit fund. The Labor Department, having been alerted to apparent financial irregularities, launched a probe that eventually led to his arrest. The grand total of stolen funds was $93,965.

Alex Cedeno could be doing better right now. A father of three, his home is in foreclosure and he’s deep in debt. And he’s no longer a member of the United Steelworkers. On the brighter side of things, he’s been released on $50,000 bail and has landed a job at United Workers of America Local 660 in Great Neck, Long Island. Given the weight of evidence against him, his stay with his new employer likely will be short.