Western Pennsylvania Teachers President Charged with Thefts

For well over four years, Charles Farris pushed the law of averages as far as he could. Now the laws of Pennsylvania have turned against him. On October 15, Farris, former president of the New Castle Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, was charged in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Court, Lawrence County, with 10 counts of felony theft and one count of misdemeanor theft related to the embezzlement of more than $35,000 in funds from the New Castle, Pa. union. He was arrested later that day, arraigned in court and set free. The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

According to the 37-page complaint, Farris, a grade school gym teacher in the New Castle Area School District, during January 1, 2015-September 9, 2019 used his union debit card to make more than 300 unauthorized purchases totaling $35,887. These purchases included groceries, restaurant meals, hotel rooms, sporting events and travel expenses. The scheme began to unravel in May 2019 when a new board of trustees took control of the union, also known as American Federation of Teachers Local 3975. After reviewing the union’s financial statements, the board concluded that there were major discrepancies in the balances and notified the county district attorney’s office that September. The complaint triggered a probe and eventual charges, including five felony counts of theft of moveable property, one misdemeanor count of theft of moveable property, and five counts of access device fraud. In addition, say prosecutors, Farris received a $4,961 check from the union treasurer without proper authorization or documentation.