A former assistant administrator of a Writers Guild fund and another woman were charged today with conspiring to embezzle $17,228.61 by creating a bogus beneficiary of a union fund that paid union members for their works that were sold, distributed and aired abroad.
In a one-count criminal information filed today, former WGAW Foreign Levies Fund Assistant Administrator Michelle Trinh, 28, was charged with setting up her accomplice as a Guild member or heir to receive three checks written approximately one year ago. In a separate one-count information, Tracey Howze, 45, was also charged with conspiracy.
In plea agreements also filed today, Trinh and Howze, both Los Angeles residents, agreed to plead guilty.
The information charges that Trinh and Howze conspired together to falsify the union’s database so that checks would be issued to Howze from the fund, which is held in trust by the Guild for disbursement to members and their beneficiaries or heirs. Foreign film societies receive payments from taxes levied by governments from the sale of blank videocassettes and digital video disks, and from showing films and television programs in foreign countries. The WGAW receives a portion of the foreign levies and disburses them to those WGAW members who wrote the material. Trinh was the assistant administrator of the fund until March 2007 when she was terminated.
Trinh and Howze will be summoned to appear in United States District Court in Los Angeles for arraignment next month. The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison.
The conspiracy charges are a result of an investigation conducted by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) in Los Angeles. OLMS enforces labor laws that impose financial responsibilities on union officers and employees to properly account for the receipt and disbursement of funds. This case was conducted with the full cooperation of current officers and employees of the Guild.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Dennis Mitchell
Public Integrity and Environmental Crimes Section
Release No. 08-021