It took more than six years for Richard Wayne Johnson to be found out as an embezzler. And it took more than three years for justice to prevail. What matters in the end is that it did. On September 14, Johnson, former secretary-treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to 18 months in prison, plus three years of probation upon release, for stealing almost $275,000 from the Phoenix-based transit workers union. He also was ordered to pay full restitution. Johnson had pleaded guilty this June following an investigation by the IRS and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Johnson, now 49, a resident of Surprise (near Phoenix), Ariz., became secretary-treasurer of ATU Local 1433 in 2005 after serving a few years as vice president. Eventually, certain union members noticed their organization was short on funds. In the fall of 2010, local officials began an audit. They concluded that Johnson was the source of the problem. The union then turned the results over to the feds. The conclusion: Johnson had stolen union funds during 2005-11. He resigned his post in January 2012. In his plea agreement in June of this year, Johnson admitted using his union debit card to make 162 cash withdrawals and 541 purchases of personal items and/or services. He also admitted to writing 67 forged union checks to himself and various family members. The IRS probe was triggered by Johnson’s failure to file federal tax deposits from union officers and members. The grand total of thefts: $273,489. Whether Johnson, reportedly unemployed, can repay this sum is a separate issue.