Rhode Island Union Fund Manager Gets Eight Years

Todd J. LaScola, the fund manager for Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Local 99 in Rhode Island who embezzled more than $ 6.4 million from his clients, was sentenced May 22 to eight years in prison. After an emotional three-hour hearing punctuated by statements from five of the investors defrauded by LaScola, U.S. Dist. Judge Mary M. Lisi’s decision boiled down to appearances how LaScola appeared to working and retired people who entrusted him with their savings, and how he has come across since his downfall.

After listening to an elderly woman describe having to seek public housing and a sobbing father describe how LaScola had stolen his children’s college money, Lisi learned that LaScola had spent $4,200 on suits last year, so that he could look good for his well-paying job in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “There’s no more despicable act than lying to people whose money you’ve taken so that you could look good and live the good life,” said Lisi. “During these past several months, when you had some extra change in your pocket, you spent it on yourself. That tells me that you don’t get it… I haven’t seen you do one blessed thing for the people whose lives you’ve ruined.”

Calling LaScola a thief, a predator and a con artist, Lisi tacked nine months onto the 87-month sentence that the government had recommended, following LaScola’s guilty plea in Feb. 2001 to nine embezzlement and fraud charges. Lisi also ordered LaScola to pay full restitution for the more than $6.4 million he misappropriated, including funds that he took to buy a $ 9,600 diamond engagement ring. The short-lived marriage fell apart two years ago, shortly after the collapse of LaScola’s investment world. James E. O’Neil, LaScola’s attorney, said LaScola does not have that kind of money, but that he will likely spend the rest of his life, after prison, seeking to repay it. LaScola must report to a federal prison, yet to be determined, on June 11. Lisi ordered that he be outfitted with an electronic ankle bracelet until then to ensure that he does not attempt to flee.

LaScola’s scam was exposed late in 1998, after Local 99 discovered that LaScola had illegally invested more than $6 million in pension funds in speculative Fla. real estate. When the union demanded its money back, LaScola pilfered funds from private investors’ accounts to repay it, then took steps to cover up those thefts when some investors started asking questions. The subterfuge failed just before Christmas that year, and federal and state authorities shut down LaScola’s business. Lisi noted that an unspecified amount of money remains unaccounted for.

At the hearing, LaScola did not talk about what drove him to steal. Instead, he found himself on the defensive as Lisi peppered him with questions about some of his recent expenses: $1,250 a month for groceries and $650 a month for clothes. [Providence J.-Bull. 5/23/01]

California Boss Imprisoned for $48,000 Embezzlement
Manuel Lujan, Jr., ex-business manager and secretary-treasurer of Int’l Bhd. of Boilermakers Local Lodge 92 in Bloomington, Cal., was sentenced Mar. 13, 2000, to twelve months and one day in federal prison for embezzling union funds. Lujan, who entered a plea agreement in Apr. 1999, acknowledged using his union credit cards for unauthorized purposes during a two-year period ending in Sept. 1997, when he resigned from office because of mismanagement of union finances. Lujan’s sentence also includes two years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine, $1,000 special assessment, and $48,101 in restitution ($20,000 by June 12, 2000 with the remaining $28,101 by Mar. 2001). Lujan was indicted in Aug. 1998 following an investigation by the Dep’t of Labor’s Office of Labor-Mgmt. Stnds. [OLMS Media Release 3/13/00]