Ava Ramey’s job was to protect the financial interests of her union. Unfortunately, union member money wasn’t secure whenever she handled it – which she frequently did. Last Monday, on June 25, Ramey, a former trustee of United Government Security Officers of America International Union (UGSOA) Local 21, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to embezzling more than $379,000 from the Bowie, Md.-based union over a roughly four-year period. She had been charged nearly three weeks earlier on June 5 following a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and other agencies. At sentencing this October 12, she faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release, plus fines up to $250,000.
Prosecutors had alleged Ramey, now 61, a resident of Bowie and a former courtroom security officer, began embezzling from the union’s Chevy Chase Bank account in December 2005. She routed funds for a variety of personal uses, including cell phone bills, electric bills, vacations, and casino and racetrack bets. All told, Ramey wrote herself more than $80,000 in unauthorized union checks; wrote another $60,000 worth of union checks to family members; purchased more than $70,000 of merchandise through a union account; withdrew more than $60,000 from ATM machines; and withdrew or transferred more than $100,000 in union funds into a personal account. It all added up to nearly $380,000.
The pattern of theft ended in 2009 following a request by her local that she document certain purchases made with union funds. Unable to get satisfactory answers, the union, headquartered in the Denver suburb of Westminster, Colo., contacted the Department of Labor and asked for an investigation. It didn’t help that in March 2009 the DOL rejected Ramey’s request for a late hardship filing of the union’s annual LM-2 financial form. This was high irony given that her misuse of union funds, more than anything else, is what led to the hardship in the first place. Her stint as a security officer already had ended in 2006 after the U.S. Marshals Service fired her for violating security protocol and performance standards. Ramey, who at the time was president of the union, then known as UGSOA Local 80, filed a federal lawsuit over issues of freedom of speech and allowable union activity. The court dismissed the case in December 2010 as lacking in material evidence. The woman appears to be a real piece of work.