Gambling losses have contributed to the downfall of dozens of union officials and employees over the past several years. Sherell Mitchell, formerly secretary-treasurer of Local 86823 of the Communications Workers America, has joined their ranks. On April 8 Mitchell was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to six months of house arrest, five years of probation and 200 hours of community service for embezzling more than $110,000 from the St. Louis union. She pleaded guilty when charged more than three months ago. As part of her plea agreement, she paid a lump sum of about $50,000 toward restitution.
Federal prosecutors early in January had charged that Mitchell, 45, a resident of St. Louis County, over a more than seven-year period wrote herself unauthorized union checks and withdrew cash directly from a union account for personal use. She admitted that she lost most of the money at a local casino. At her sentencing hearing, she apologized, admitting her gambling “got totally out of control.” The presiding judge refrained from sentencing her to prison in the hopes that she more easily could pay the remaining restitution. The sentencing follows a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.