Heather Lott wrote union checks with a particular beneficiary in mind: herself. And her illegal acts may get her some prison time. On April 7, the former bookkeeper for Local 19 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzling more than $140,000 in union funds. Lott, 37, a resident of Wichita Falls, Texas, served in her capacity with the Houston-area union, whose members are primarily employees of Continental Airlines, during the period of January 2003-January 2006.
According to court records, the Local 19 treasurer in an audit for the year 2005 noticed well over 12 database entries designated as rental payments for the union hall, even though rent was due on a monthly basis. Where did all those extra payments go? Take a guess. Unable to find the cancelled checks for the supposed rental payments, the treasurer requested records from the bank. The records indicated that Lott was both payee and endorser for all checks. The international union sent down two auditors, who found that all 91 “missing” checks, totaling $135,974.53, represented payments to union vendors. Again, Lott had been payee and endorser. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor discovered five additional checks for a combined $4,977.72 made out to Lott, bringing the grand total to $140,952.25. Bank records revealed that virtually all 96 checks were deposited to an account in Lott’s name, and that she spent most of the money on personal items. Lott remains free on bond pending sentencing, scheduled for July 7. The embezzlement charge carries a maximum punishment of up to five years in prison. (States News Service, 4/7/08).