Until recently, Tony Liesenfeld represented guards at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. In an odd twist of fate, he’s now facing the possibility of being an inmate there or somewhere else like it. On October 4, Liesenfeld, former president and secretary-treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 148, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to an information count of wire fraud against the union totaling more than $77,000 over several years. The plea includes a requirement to make full restitution on top of any sentence. He had been charged on September 13. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Over its nearly 90-year history, Lewisburg federal prison has served as a temporary home to a rogues’ gallery of convicts including Whitey Bulger, John Gotti and Jimmy Hoffa. Tony Liesenfeld isn’t remotely in their class. But as head of AFGE Local 148, which represents guards at the storied facility, his hands were less than clean. According to prosecutors, Liesenfeld, now 49, a resident of Sunbury, Pa., made unauthorized use of his union credit card, created fraudulent checks, and forged signatures, and then created fake vouchers to conceal the thefts. The alleged offenses occurred during June 11, 2011-November 25, 2015. Purchases included laptop computers, iPads and camping equipment. An internal audit in late 2015 resulted in the removal of Liesenfeld and local Vice President Dave Bartlett from their posts. Following the charges of last month, Liesenfeld claimed that the national union had been plotting to impose a trusteeship on the local. Soon after, he changed his story. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but given appropriate sentencing guidelines, he most likely will get a one-year sentence.