Amidst increased scrutiny into the role of unions representing law enforcement officers, the president of a small New York City law enforcement union was busted last week for fraud and more.
As the national conversation about unions in law enforcement takes center stage after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York announced the arrest of Kenneth Wyndner, Jr., the president of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA), as well as charges against the union’s treasurer, Steven Whittick.
The Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association is a small union that represents law enforcement personnel at certain New York City agencies. Namely, LEEBA has represented law enforcement employees employed by New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), the Department of Sanitation (“Sanitation”), and the Department of Transportation (“Transportation”).
In their role as the collective bargaining representatives, LEEBA’s officers Wynder and Whittick had access to an annuity fund that received monthly contributions from the City for the benefit of LEEBA’s members.
As the annuity fund maintained separate accounts for each fund member, it was “functionally similar” to employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement accounts.
On his part, Wyndner was arrested for “defrauding union members by misappropriating money from LEEBA’s Annuity Fund,” according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Specifically, Wynder is accused of stealing from his union members’ annuity funds to “enrich himself” and using “unauthorized and excessive checks to himself and cash withdrawals for his own benefit.”
Wynder used his ill-gotten money to fund “various personal expenses such as a second residence, clothing, travel expenses, and the purchase of a personal automobile, all paid for by the union,” according to the DOJ.
According to the Department of Justice’s release:
“From at least in or about 2012 up to and including the date of this Complaint, WYNDER participated in a scheme to steal, embezzle, and misappropriate money from the Annuity Fund and individual members’ retirement accounts. Specifically, WYNDER made hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraudulent transfers from the Annuity Fund to LEEBA’s operating account, which he controlled, and regularly used the funds, once transferred from the Annuity Fund, to enrich himself at union members’ expense, including through unauthorized and excessive checks to himself and cash withdrawals for his own benefit. In addition, WYNDER caused the union to pay for various personal expenses such as a second residence, clothing, travel expenses, and the purchase of a personal automobile, all paid for by the union, and none of which were contemporaneously reported to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), as required.”
“To accomplish this fraudulent scheme, WYNDER, acting in his capacity as the Annuity Fund’s Plan Administrator, repeatedly made false and misleading statements to a third-party retirement plan manager that served as the custodian for the Annuity Fund and the retirement accounts of individual union members, including through emails and faxes that WYNDER used to withdraw increasingly large sums of money from the Annuity Fund, effectively causing such withdrawals to be made from the retirement accounts of individual members. From in or about 2014 through in or about 2019, WYNDER caused the withdrawal of more than $500,000 from the individual retirement accounts that constitute the Annuity Fund, thereby wiping out the entire balance of certain members’ accounts. Without these improper withdrawals from the Annuity Fund, the LEEBA operating account would have been insolvent, and would have had insufficient funds to pay for WYNDER’s excessive checks to himself and cash withdrawals and the personal expenses he caused to be charged to that account.”
This is not the first time Wynder has been the subject of scrutiny.
A Facebook page called ‘The Truth About LEEBA‘ has a litany of posts critical of Wynder and his handling of members’ benefits.
Here are a few:
The other defendant in thecase, LEEBA’s Treasurer Whittick, according to the Justice Department, “was charged separately with obstructing the investigation into fraud in connection with LEEBA and the Annuity Fund and making false statements to federal agents.”
The downfall of LEEBA’s top officers are not upsetting other unions, reports The Chief.
“He actually stole from his members, directly from their pockets,” Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd stated, referring to the charges brought against Mr. Wynder and LEEBA Treasurer Steven Whittick by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. “He betrayed his members’ trust while going after other unions to destroy them.”
Mr. Floyd in the past fought off efforts by Mr. Wynder to have parts of his membership vote to decertify from Local 237 so they could join LEEBA. “We knew he was not a labor leader; we knew he was a charlatan, and now the facts are going to come out at his trial,” he said.
According to the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards website, LEEBA has also (inexplicably) failed to file its required financial disclosures.
To further add to the union bosses’ legal issues, it appears that the union has not filed financial disclosures with the U.S. Department of Labor for several years.
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