For a few years, Sarah Geddes Holmes used her union like a personal bank. She now might be facing a few years in prison. Last Thursday, December 3, Holmes, former secretary-treasurer of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 24, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to embezzling nearly $300,000 in funds from the union through embezzlement and bank fraud. She had been charged in an information count on November 23. The union represents more than 400 employees of a combined 10 employers at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. As part of her plea agreement, she must pay full restitution. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Sentencing is set for March 4.
According to prosecutors, Holmes, now 65, a resident of Clinton, Md., during May 2015-June 2018 embezzled local funds by writing checks to herself, depositing them into a personal checking account, altering software to conceal these transactions, and either averting or forging signatures. In 138 cases, Holmes signed a union check but without securing a countersignature by the union president in violation of union bylaws. In 22 other cases, she forged a second signature. Those 160 checks represented $294,585.18.
To conceal the scheme, Holmes applied some tricks she had up her sleeve. First, she altered information in the union’s accounting software to fraudulently obtain 33 checks; in 14 of these cases, she altered the check number, date and/or dollar amount. In another instance, she deposited the same check twice. She also made false entries in local records to make it appear as though the checks were going for a legitimate business purpose. The actual purpose was personal indulgence, with gambling figuring heavily in this. On 17 occasions, say prosecutors, Holmes deposited fraudulent checks totaling $39,894.79 on the same day that she used her player card at the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover (Anne Arundel County), Md. She faces up to five years in prison for embezzlement and up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud. Even with lesser sentences, she’ll have ample time to think about her thefts.