Caleb Gray-Burriss can take solace in the fact that his latest indictment isn’t as severe as his previous ones. On August 16, Gray-Burriss, founder-president of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO), was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with a superseding indictment relating to his thefts of funds from the Washington, D.C. union, which represents about 800 private security guards assigned to federal government buildings. Gray-Burriss is charged with two counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to embezzle. He’s been on this merry-go-round for some time. Originally, he was charged in June 2010 with four counts of mail fraud in the wake of a Labor Department probe in 2006. He would be charged in an April 2011 superseding indictment for thefts in excess of $200,000.
Union Corruption Update has followed the travails of Caleb Gray-Burriss, now 61, for more than a half-decade. In April 2007, federal agents raided his Washington, D.C. home, seizing union records, computer hard drives and other potential criminal evidence. An affidavit filed by the Office of Inspector General, Department of Labor (DOL), alleged he stole NASPSO pension and health plan dues, plus “numerous, ongoing withdrawals” from the accounts to cover travel and other personal expenses. DOL already had filed a civil complaint the previous July accusing Gray-Burriss and the union – they effectively were the same thing – of having “dealt with assets of the pension plan in their own interest or for their own account.” That August the department obtained a court order removing him and the union from further fiduciary involvement with the plan; it also indefinitely froze member accounts. He and his attorney at the time, Howard Schmuckler, insisted the government had no case. But fighting the charges has proven to be a costly strategy.
After numerous delays, Gray-Burriss on June 25, 2010 was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of mail fraud and arrested four days later. From roughly June 2004-August 2006, read the indictment, Gray-Burriss made numerous withdrawals totaling $96,000 from the union pension fund and used the money to cover personal expenses. He pleaded not guilty. This set the stage for a superseding indictment handed down in April 2011. During approximately June 2004-February 2011, Gray-Burriss allegedly wrote himself or other parties more than $100,000 worth of NASPSO pension fund checks and falsely claimed he was managing union money. The indictment also accused him of stealing more than $115,000 in NASPSO funds via unauthorized salary increases and bonuses for himself, cash withdrawals from ATM machines, and reimbursements for vacations, casino trips, dental work, and other activity unrelated to union business. It also charged him with obstruction of justice for concealing or destroying union records and with criminal contempt of a court order for stealing union funds to cover fines in a separate civil settlement.
The latest superseding indictment of August 16 is lighter than its predecessor. It charges Gray-Burriss with two counts of embezzlement totaling $68,374.99 and one count of conspiracy to embezzle. That’s a good deal less than what he was accused of taking a year and a half ago. Court records from last year indicated his openness to a plea bargain. Now may be the time to take up the government’s offer. Gray-Burriss since his arrest has been under “high-intensity supervision,” which typically involves home confinement and strict curfews. Yet even if he and his current attorney cut a favorable deal with prosecutors, his case should serve as yet another example of why control of a union in the hands of one person is a bad idea. From his founding of NASPSO in 1993 until the DOL’s removal of his control over the union pension plan in 2006, he was its chief executive and sole employee. For years, a group of dissenting union members has operated a website, www.eyeoncaleb.org, exposing corruption by Gray-Burriss. At this point, he no doubt wishes he had paid more attention to them.