Melvin Fishburn couldn’t delay the inevitable forever. Belatedly, he is going away for a while. On March 5, Fishburn, former business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 743 and a trustee of the pension plan of the Reading, Pa.-based union, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to 15 months in prison plus three years of supervised release for stealing funds from the plan. He also was ordered to pay $81,413 in restitution and an $800 special assessment. He had pleaded guilty last July to four counts each of embezzlement and wire fraud. The actions follow an investigation by Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and the Employee Benefit Security Administration.
According to prosecutors, Fishburn, now 57, a resident of Charleston, S.C., during July 2010-June 2014 concocted an elaborate scheme to divert retirement plan assets to his own personal use. He created a shell company from which he would submit disbursement requests for nonexistent services and expenses. Then, acting as a plan trustee, he authorized payments to the shell entity, with checks mailed to a Post Office Box under his control. The scheme ended six years ago, but justice finally has been done. Derek Pickle, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge for the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, Philadelphia Region, explained after sentencing: “Melvin Fishburn created a fictitious consulting company for the sole purpose of embezzling more than $80,000 from the IBEW Retirement Plan. Fishburn abused his position as a plan trustee in order to deprive hard-working union members of money set aside for their retirement.”