5 May – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The former bookkeeper of a union representing some 3,200 Inland Empire laborers has been charged with embezzling more than $178,000 in union funds.
Leslie Patricia Bell, 39, of Palm Desert, was charged Monday afternoon in a one-count information with embezzling $178,452 from Laborers International Union of North America Local 1184 over a three-year period beginning in May 2001. In a plea agreement also filed Monday, Bell agreed to plead guilty to the embezzlement charge.
Bell was employed by LIUNA Local 1184 in Riverside as a full-time bookkeeper from 1997 until she was terminated in July 2003. Bell was responsible for paying the union’s bills, as well as receiving and depositing members’ dues payments. The bulk of the embezzled funds came from cash dues payments by union members. More than $22,000 of the money was stolen when Bell forged the signature of the union’s president – who was also her husband at the time – on two checks drawn on the union’s checking account.
The members of Local 1184 are employed by more than 300 commercial construction companies and building contractors throughout the Inland Empire.
Bell will be summoned to appear in United States District Court in Riverside for arraignment later this month. The embezzlement charge carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in federal prison.
The charge is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards in Los Angeles and the Labor Department’s Office of the Inspector General, Fraud and Racketeering Office, in West Covina. The investigation was conducted with the full cooperation of Local 1184’s current officers and employees.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Antoine F. Raphael