Say this for Charles Burke: He’s making amends. On April 6, Burke, former treasurer of Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 365, pleaded guilty in Nassau County (N.Y.) District Court to stealing more than $111,000 in funds from the Valley Stream, N.Y.-based union, which represents employees of American Water. While he could receive up to a year in jail at his June 13 sentencing, it’s not likely. The plea deal calls for three years of probation with no jail time. Burke had been arraigned a month earlier. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
According to prosecutors, Burke, now 47, a resident of Oceanside, L.I., for more than five years had diverted union funds to his own use. He allegedly had written checks to himself and made withdrawals from union bank accounts without authorization. Burke’s pattern of theft unraveled when the national union in October 2014 notified the local that it had not received any forwarded dues payments in over two years. Local officials conducted an internal probe, concluding Burke was the culprit. They then reported the result to the Labor Department, which in April 2015 referred the case to the County of Nassau. Recognizing he was trapped, Burke surrendered to county authorities on March 8 and was arraigned that day on charges of larceny and fraud. On April 6, he pleaded guilty to a second-degree scheme to defraud.
Charles Burke is doing what he can to make the situation whole. He made restitution in the sum of $70,000 before his arrest and, as part of his plea agreement, agreed to pay back the remainder over three years. “He’s a good man, he’s a family man,” said Burke’s attorney, Ronald Beckoff. “He had a problem which has been resolved. I’m confident the courts will never see him again.” District Attorney Madeline Singas stated the situation somewhat differently: “For more than five years, the defendant lined his pockets with the union dues of his fellow union members. With today’s plea, the defendant is now forced to repay the money he has stolen.”