It’s the second time within a few months that the head of a newspaper back shop operations union in New York City has been charged with theft. It might soon be known as a trend. On December 14, Wayne Mitchell, former president of Local 14170 of the Communications Workers of America, also known as Mailers Local 6, was charged in Manhattan federal court with embezzling more than a quarter million dollars from his union over roughly three and a half years. Mitchell until May 2008 headed the 700-member union, whose members work at printing plants of the New York Times, the New York Post and the New York Daily News, facilities that also handle shipping for the Wall Street Journal, the Newark Star-Ledger and a Spanish-language daily, El Diario. Released on $100,000 bail on December 18, he faces up to five years in prison.
According to court papers filed by prosecutors, Mitchell admitted to Department of Labor (DOL) investigators that he had received $250,000 in unauthorized payroll checks between October 1, 2004 and May 30, 2008. Moreover, he allegedly embezzled additional funds “by falsely claiming personal expenses as union-related bills.” Mitchell’s troubles began sometime in 2008 when a worker noticed that the union payroll included what appeared to be a fake name. The employee alerted federal authorities who determined that Mitchell had written checks to himself and associates totaling more than $200,000 of which around $180,000 had bounced. That wasn’t the end of it. Under his watch, the union owed more than $200,000 in back taxes to the IRS plus hundreds of thousands of dollars to other entities, especially the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Moreover, the local skipped contributions to the worker pension fund. While Mitchell stepped down from his post allegedly for health reasons, it’s hard to imagine he could have retained his position anyway.
The case is unrelated to another recent scandal involving newspaper shipping operations in the New York area. This past November New York City police raided the circulation plants of four of the city’s largest daily papers, part of a probe into the Teamster-affiliated Newspaper and Mail Deliverers union. While no specific person or crimes were named in the investigation, the fact that several union members had been indicted back in the Nineties in a separate probe suggests something may turn up here as well.