BALTIMORE — A Port Deposit woman has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for embezzling more than $80,000 in funds from a union that represents 760 employees of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Perry Point, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Identified by investigators as the former treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees (“AFGE”) Local Union 331, the defendant – Annette Elizabeth Jones, 45 - executed two fraud schemes through which she embezzled at least $82,180.73 from the union, according to federal prosecutors.
First, from July 2012 through July 2015, Jones stole at least $80,944 in union funds by forging her colleagues’ signatures on 335 union checks that she wrote to herself and then cashed or deposited at multiple financial institutions, prosecutors said.
Second, from January 2014 through July 2015, Jones used a union-issued credit card on 20 separate occasions to pay a total of $1,235 in personal expenses, prosecutors added.
On Tuesday, some four months after Jones had pleaded guilty to bank fraud as part of a plea deal, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow imposed a two-year prison sentence on her.
The judge also ordered Jones to serve three years of supervised probation after completing her two-year prison term. In addition, Chasanow ordered Jones to pay $82,180 in restitution.
Jones admitted that she took steps to conceal the scheme from the union, according to Bailey Drumm, a USAO spokesperson.
“For example, not only did Jones have exclusive control of the union’s checkbook, but she also maintained sole custody of a laptop computer that she was issued by the union to manage its financial records on union-purchased accounting software. In that software, Jones frequently recorded false information regarding the business purpose of the fraudulent union checks she forged and negotiated, or recorded no information at all about the business purpose of such checks,” Drumm explained.
Jones also provided false information about the union’s finances to the executive board and the union membership, caused reports to be submitted to the federal government that falsely certified the sum of money she received from the union, and lied to the union’s independent auditor, Drumm reported.
“Jones’ fraud was discovered in July 2015, when the union’s vice president overheard a phone call in which Jones attempted to purchase a smartphone for a family member using the credit card she had been issued to pay for union expenses only,” Drumm said.
The vice president then reported the conversation to the union’s president, who, in turn, conducted a search of Jones' office and found two un-cashed union checks made payable to Jones on which it appeared that the president’s signature had been forged, prosecutors reported.
The union president then met with the manager of the bank where the union’s account was held and reviewed each of the checks to Jones that had been drawn on the union’s account during the preceding three months, according to prosecutors.
“The union president’s signature had been forged on all of them. When the manager provided the president with copies of the union’s monthly credit-card account statements, the president also discovered that Jones had made a number of personal charges on her union-issued card,” Drumm outlined.
At that point, Jones immediately was removed from her union treasurer position, and she resigned from the VA soon thereafter, prosecutors said. Although Jones had agreed to return her union-issued laptop at the time she was removed as treasurer, Jones admitted that she never returned it, prosecutors added.