For several years, Alaska was a favorite location for movie and TV productions. A stagehand union official used the opportunity to produce some illegal revenue for herself. On June 9, Ann Reddig, former secretary-treasurer of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 918, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska with embezzlement and forgery in connection her theft of roughly $193,000 over a more than four-year period from the Anchorage union. Local business agent Eric Lizer noted afterward: “That dollar amount is like five, six years of our entire income.” A court hearing is scheduled for June 26. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
With an abundance of spectacular natural scenery, Alaska provides a multitude of opportunities for on-location movie and television shoots. Back in 2008, lawmakers were enthusiastic enough about such possibilities to establish a tax credit and a corresponding state film office. Governor Sarah Palin signed the bill into law. The state already had been the site for the principal photography for such acclaimed films as Insomnia and Into the Wild. Why not an encore? Supporters saw the program, set to expire in 2018, as a valuable economic development tool that would pay for itself in the long run. But by 2015, the state had paid out more than $50 million in tax credits, with another $30 million on the way. On the revenue side, the anticipated oil industry tax receipts weren’t materializing. Worse, many TV and film people were seeking fame and fortune in other states. Lawmakers repealed the program that April, and Governor Bill Walker signed the bill in June.
Yet the tax credit did create jobs, especially at IATSE Local 918, a union whose secretary-treasurer since March 2007 had been Ann Reddig. A stage actress since the Seventies, Reddig, now 62, played the role of a real-life thief rather convincingly for a while. According to prosecutors, from January 2010 until her departure in September 2014, she “embezzled, stole and unlawfully and willfully abstracted and converted to her own use, or the use of another” more than $193,000 in union funds. Local 918 officials first noticed something wrong in 2013 when its checks began to bounce. In response, they conducted a full audit. Then-local President Richard Benavides noticed that some of the checks contained his forged signature and that others were written out to people with no connection to union business, such as Reddig’s mother. In addition, the audit turned up numerous unauthorized electronic transfers and cash withdrawals. The union quickly contacted the U.S. Department of Labor, which then conducted its own probe. The department confirmed what the union had suspected: Ann Reddig stole the money. At that point, the DOL referred the case to the Justice Department.
Prior to the federal prosecution, former President Benavides recalled a conversation he had with Reddig over why she took the money. Her response: “I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t explain it.” At least the financial condition of the roughly 50-member union looks clearer after paying off remaining creditors. “We are very enthused that the union is finally going to get some closure on this issue,” said business agent Eric Lizer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to discuss the matter, but more should be known at Reddig’s arraignment next Monday.