For Gary A. Barner, a 16-month sentence in federal prison for theft is anticlimactic. Maybe that’s because he’s already doing time in state prison for something a lot more serious. Barner, formerly treasurer for Local 518 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), was sentenced in federal court on January 14 to one year and four months in prison for embezzling nearly $30,000 from the Rome, Ga.-based union. He pleaded guilty in October. PACE is now part of the United Steelworkers, the two having merged in 2005.
Barner, 41, a resident of Rome, Ga., served as local treasurer during 2002-06. During that period, say prosecutors, he embezzled $28,115.63 by “writing himself checks and depositing them into his own bank account or cashing checks for his own use.” That wasn’t the worst of it. In 2006, an auditor for the union discovered the shortfall and concluded Barner was the culprit. In a panic, Barner approached his father, Gary H. Barner, demanding a loan to cover his thefts. His father refused to give him the money. The younger Barner then beat and shot him. Perhaps out of twinge of conscience, he turned himself into the police that evening. He eventually was convicted for aggravated assault, and received a sentence of five years in Georgia state prison. While serving the sentence, the son confessed to his union embezzlement to federal investigators. The elder Barner thankfully survived. It was a close call for Local 518 as well. “This particular offense wiped out the local, and they had to start all over again,” stated Assistant U.S. Attorney David Leta.
Of his 16-month sentence for theft, Gary A. Barner must serve 12 months concurrently with the original five-year sentence. He also will have to make $28,158 in restitution. Barner’s lawyer, while not excusing his client’s actions, noted that he’d used the stolen funds to pay for his mother’s treatments for multiple sclerosis from which she died in 2006. “I’m not a bad person,” said Barner. “I just made bad decisions in what I did.” Those “bad decisions” included wiping out a union’s finances and nearly murdering a family member.