Problem gambling has been the downfall of more than one labor official in this country. You can add Teresa Wilson to the long and growing list. Wilson, formerly office manager of United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 41, pleaded guilty on May 16 in Missoula, Montana federal court to stealing a combined sum of anywhere from $171,300 to $219,319 from the local and the Central Labor Council (CLC). She had been indicted on March 21 for embezzlement, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is set for September 7 during which time she remains free. She faces up to 30 years in prison.
Wilson, now 57, a resident of Butte, Mont., was employed by the Butte-based Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 41 from 1997 to 2010. For eight of those years she also served as president of the Central Labor Council, an umbrella group for unions throughout Southwest Montana. And for six of those years, unbeknownst to rank and file, she ran what amounted to a theft and money-laundering operation. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, following a review of local and council annual financial reports, saw a pattern of unexplained expenditures. Reviewing Wilson’s bank records, DOL investigators found $177,337 in Central Labor Council checks deposited directly into her personal bank accounts and another $237,000 in cash deposits. In addition, investigators discovered $100,210 in checks from Local 41 and another $87,909 from the local’s apprenticeship training fund, sums she had funneled through the CLC. The Labor Department eventually referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Much of this suspicious activity represented attempts by Wilson to cover up gambling-related losses. In interviews with prosecutors, she admitted to having a gambling problem, asserting that “the cash deposits were from (gambling) and not from embezzlement of cash monies that would have come into the union as dues payments.” She did not dispute the charge of diverting checks to personal accounts. Wilson allegedly wrote checks to herself or her husband, made unauthorized withdrawals, and received cash back on deposits. To conceal her thefts, she forged signatures of other CLC officers or the council’s former treasurer. At her arraignment, she initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed her plea to guilty.