Carpenters Member in Indiana Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

At the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters (IKORCC), theft seems to be a way of doing business. And for Luka Kljajic, business was good until he was caught. On July 25, Kljajic, a member of the Greenwood, Ind.-based council, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to submitting nearly $50,000 in false claims to a union-sponsored benefit plan and to assisting other union members in submitting false claims to the plan. Sentencing is scheduled for November 19. The plea follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

According to prosecutors, Kljajic during 2012-14 submitted fake reimbursement requests for medical plan expenses and helped other union members with similar deceptions. In the case of the latter offenses, he would receive fees ranging from $100 to $500 per claim. In his written plea agreement, he admitted to these offenses and agreed to reimburse the fund by $47,397. “The Employee Benefits Security Administration will continue to investigate such crimes aggressively on behalf of workers nationwide as part of the Department’s mission to protect the rights of America’s workers,” said EBSA Regional Director Jeffrey Monhart.

He’s got a sizable work load. Kljajic is the latest of more than two dozen IKORCC-affiliated Carpenters to be charged in federal court in connection with this scam, which thus far has resulted in restitution orders totaling $491,890. And the feds are coordinating their probe with the State of Indiana. Recently, the state charged two dozen council members with theft and forgery after Labor Department investigators had discovered $419,854 in false reimbursements. Were that not enough, EBSA’s Cincinnati Regional Office has charges pending against two persons related to theft from the plan in a combined sum of $57,980. In addition, two union members from Indiana recently reimbursed the benefit plan by a combined $51,045, though without charges being filed. Prosecutors may be wondering when all this will end.