Ernest Milewski wasn’t quite as clever as he imagined. The former president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Northeastern District Council was charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on July 11 with embezzling more than $200,000 from the Wilkes-Barre labor organization and an allied health care benefit program. The information count follows a joint investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General, and Employee Benefits Security Administration. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Milewski, now 61, a resident of West Pittston, Pa., served as president of the Northeastern District Council from 1996 until May 2008 and also headed the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Textile and Garment Council. On top of that, he was a member of UFCW Local 727 and a representative for the International UFCW. Somewhere in all this, Milewski found the time to pilfer union assets. Federal prosecutors charge that he wrote unauthorized union checks to himself and received unauthorized expense reimbursements by double-billing the international and district unions. He also allegedly embezzled funds from a fund set up by the UFCW to help pay for member health costs. “Unions and their members rely on the honesty and integrity of their officers to safeguard union funds,” remarked U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith. “When that trust is broken, there must be full accountability. Only through appropriate prosecution of such crimes can that trust be restored.”