Garold W. Lawson Sr. wrote more than a hundred unauthorized union checks over several years to pay for personal expenses. His good luck streak was bound to run out – and did. Lawson, formerly president of National Association of Government Employees (NAGE, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union) Local R14-139, pleaded guilty on January 6 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri after being charged with embezzling at least $67,566 from the union, which represents several hundred employees of E.D.P. Enterprises, a food services contractor for Fort Leonard Wood Army Base.
Lawson, 67, a resident of St. Robert, Mo., beginning in 2004 concocted a variety of schemes to divert union funds to his own use by writing checks. In one common ploy, he wrote 33 union checks totaling $20,534 payable to his grandson, all of which he deposited in a joint or individual bank account under his control. In another, he made out 13 checks worth $20,991 payable to himself purportedly to cover lost wages, sick leave, retirement, per diem expenses and mileage expenses, none of which he was entitled to receive. Additionally, he wrote 54 union checks to himself totaling $24,526 for mileage and/or per diem expenses already paid by the national union. He also wrote four checks worth $1,515 ostensibly for reimbursement for items already covered by the parent NAGE. Finally, Lawson filed for and received an $860 reimbursement for furniture he never bought.
The patterns of theft unraveled when the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards conducted a routine compliance audit and noticed too many unexplained expenditures. In March 2010, during the probe Lawson resigned his post. He faces up to five years in prison plus a $250,000 fine and restitution order following the completion of a presentencing investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.