West Virginia Building & Trades Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

For about four years, Joan Matthews outsmarted her union. Then people started to notice. On June 12, Matthews, former bookkeeper for the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to one count of embezzling funds from the Charleston-based labor organization in the amount of $183,667.11. She had been indicted in January following an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Matthews, who has agreed to pay full restitution, is scheduled for sentencing on September 11.

According to prosecutors, Joan Matthews, now 70, a resident of South Charleston, W.Va., began stealing funds from the council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, in 2010. She did this in a variety of ways: preparing and cashing unauthorized union checks; using union funds to pay credit card bills; and making unauthorized charges to council credit cards. Her embezzlement continued until September 2014 when certain union office employees noticed a fund shortfall and notified the Department of Labor, which eventually referred the case to the Justice Department. “Matthews used her position to steal from her employer for four years,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart following the guilty plea. “My office takes cases like these very seriously and we will prosecute embezzlers to the fullest extent of the law.”