State Senator Tom Cullerton is now facing federal charges that embezzled funds from the Teamsters. Federal authorities are accusing Cullerton of collecting a nearly $190,000 salary plus bonuses for vehicle and cellphone usage. He is also said to have taken $64,000 in health and pension contributions while doing apparently nothing for the Teamsters union.
Cullerton faced a grand jury indictment in August on one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union, one count of lying about a public health matter, and 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union.
Cullerton is one of three elected officials to face federal charges amid a federal probe into corruption in Chicago and Illinois. Cullerton has pleaded not guilty to all charges and expressed eagerness to clear his good name.
Embezzlement and Theft from Labor Unions and Employee Benefit Plans
Cullerton is being charged under federal statute 9-133. Cullerton is accused of depleting union assets, placing himself on the payroll, and covering his medical expenses using union money.
According to a recent survey, misappropriation of union assets is a problem all across the country. In the past two years, over 300 unions have discovered some form of theft or misappropriation of union funds. It is not just machinists and auto workers unions that are facing this problem. According to the Department of Labor, funds have been found missing from nurses’ unions, plumbers, aerospace engineers, and air traffic controllers, as well. Typically, however, there are multiple parties charged with the theft. In this case, you have only one senator who is in federal crosshairs over an allegedly undeserved salary and perks.
Others point out that the problem goes beyond labor unions and bedevils many non-profits, including churches.
What is Embezzlement?
In cases in which embezzlement is the charge, the statute has specific guidelines on what qualifies as embezzlement. Essentially, an embezzlement defendant is someone who had legal access to certain funds or property but did not own the funds or property themselves. They then use this money for their own personal gain. Additionally, the theft is associated with a special position of trust that was violated by the defendant.
Whether or not embezzlement is charged by the federal (as opposed to state) government depends on from where the funds were stolen. Money embezzled from federal programs or from contractors who are paid by the federal government are typically pursued by the federal government. In this case, because the probe was conducted by the federal government, it is federal authorities who are prosecuting the charges.
Each count of embezzlement carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Cullerton is facing 39 counts of embezzlement.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing federal charges, David Freidberg can help you defend yourself in federal court. Our firm handles both state and federal charges and has represented those charged with white-collar crimes before. Call us today at (312) 560-7100 for more information.