California VP Accused of $277,300 Embezzlement

A federal grand jury recently charged Alan L. Axt, ex-vice president of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1288 Federal Credit Union with embezzling an estimated $277,335. Before U.S. Magis. Judge Sandra M. Snyder, Axt pled not guilty July 9 to embezzling funds from the Fresno, Cal., credit union. The one-count indictment alleges that Axt embezzled the funds from Mar. 1999 to Nov. 2000. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. After the June indictment, Axt’s attorney, David Gottlieb, said that he was cooperating with the FBI, the U.S. Atty.’s Office, and the credit union and hoped “to get it resolved as quickly as we can.” [Fresno Bee 7/10/01]

Weak Evidence, Statute of Limitations Help Chicago Boss
 In a blow to the U.S. Atty.’s Office in Chicago, U.S. Dist. Judge Blanche Manning acquitted ex-union boss John Serpico on four of eleven counts July 9, calling the government’s evidence too weak to go to the jury. The action in effect dismissed racketeering, conspiracy, bank fraud, and false statement charges against Serpico on the eve of closing arguments. Jury deliberations began July 12.

Serpico, ex-Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. official and ex-Central States Joint Bd. head, still faces prison if he is convicted on the remaining seven counts of mail fraud. He is charged with using his influence to deposit about $20 million in union funds with several small banks in return for receiving $5 million in personal loans he and others received at favorable rates. He is also accused of taking kickbacks in return for a $6.5 million loan for a hotel project.

Manning also acquitted co-defendant, Maria Busillo, on three of six counts but rejected attempts by a third co-defendant, Gilbert Cataldo, to get any of the three mail fraud counts he faces dismissed.

Manning found the evidence insufficient to prove Serpico guilty of bank fraud and making false statements on a loan application. On the bank fraud count, she ruled that the government failed to prove a $100,000 cash payment made by Busillo on a house came from the kickback scheme. The dismissal of the bank fraud count had repercussions on Serpico’s racketeering and conspiracy charges. It cut the statute of limitations on the racketeering and conspiracy charges in half, to five years, and none of the charged conduct occurred within that period, forcing Manning to throw out those two counts. [Chi. Trib. 7/10/01]