Southern California Independent Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Theft

Danae Romero might not be the only culpable member of her family, but she appears to be the first to admit as much. On March 9, Romero, former vice president of the United Industrial and Service Workers of America, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to one count of theft in connection with the disappearance of benefit funds from the Colton (San Bernardino County), Calif.-based independent union. She, her brother and their parents had been indicted a little over two years ago for looting a combined roughly $900,000 in funds from the union, which represents a variety of workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire region. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Union Corruption Update covered this case when it first broke. Back in January 2015, husband and wife John S. and Evelyn Romero, each a former union president, and their two adult children, John J. and Danae Romero, also ex-union officials, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 40 counts of theft, embezzlement and concealment of information on annual union financial reports. According to prosecutors, family members diverted union dues to a Nevada-based shell company and placed health plan assets in the name of a construction company associated with a third-party administrator, collecting payments without the trustees’ knowledge. They also embezzled extensively from union general and health plan funds. The scams began to unravel in early 2013 when an anonymous tipster notified the Labor Department of financial irregularities. That’s what led to the indictments and this month’s guilty plea of health care theft by Danae Romero, now 39. Further pleas by other family members are almost sure to follow.