$433K Union Theft Not Reported Because of “Potential Impact on Membership”
posted at 12:30 pm on March 11, 2013 by Mike Antonucci
The theft of more than $433,000 by a former local treasurer was covered up by the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) because the union feared the “potential impact on membership and loss of members,” according to an insurance claim document obtained by the Salisbury Daily Times.
Denise Inez Owens was the treasurer of the Worcester County Teachers Association (WCTA) when she stole state and national dues money to feed her gambling addiction. MSEA discovered the embezzlement in March 2009, but failed to report it to authorities. Instead the union persuaded Owens to sign a confession and agree to a restitution plan. Owens then resigned her union position and returned to work as a middle school teacher without notifying the school district of her predicament.
MSEA ordered a forensic audit of the local union’s finances, then filed an insurance claim that stated the offense was “Not reported because of potential impact on membership and loss of members.”
The cover-up was not discovered until the Daily Times found evidence in WCTA’s IRS filings in February 2012. The union had failed to submit required paperwork because of the mess Owens had left behind. It asked the IRS for leniency because “a substantial amount of money was embezzled.” The newspaper turned over its findings to law enforcement authorities, who subsequently filed charges against Owens. She pleaded guilty to a single count of theft and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The story will probably end there, but authorities haven’t completely closed the case yet.
“We are certainly looking at anyone who had a role in the theft of the funds, or anyone involved in a cover-up,” said Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby. “Their actions continue criminal behavior, and we are happy to charge and prosecute.”