John Romero, the former self-appointed head of the United Industrial Services Workers of America (UISWA), was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for orchestrating an elaborate scheme involving family members to steal more than $800,000 from union members’ health benefit funds.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has sentenced John S. Romero – a former president of the United Industrial and Service Workers of America in Colton, California – to 12 years in prison for embezzling funds from the union’s health plan, conspiracy and making false statements on annual government filings, the U.S. Department of Labor stated Tuesday in a press release.
For years, Romero and wife and children had been using their union positions to steal money from their members’ health benefit fund before being caught.
Money paid into the fund was supposed to be used exclusively for health care benefits of its participants, the U.S. Attorney’s office stated on Tuesday. Instead, Romero stole the union’s health funds for the benefit of himself and his immediate family.
“To execute this scheme, (John S. Romero) manipulated others, including his own family members,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “He employed sophisticated means in furtherance of the scheme, including by diverting trust money through a Nevada shell company to hide his theft. He lied to brokers and administrators. And he bullied and pressured those around him to get his way, thereby intimidating and abusing those who trusted him most.”
According to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office:
“From 2008 to 2014, Romero embezzled health plan funds to pay a $110,000 personal civil judgment against himself and his son, John J. Romero, 55, also of Loma Linda. He also embezzled $40,000 to pay criminal defense lawyers who represented Romero in a separate case. Romero funneled more than $310,000 to himself by disguising the funds as rent payments on two properties he owned and held under a shell company.
In addition, he stole more than $300,000 in union health plan money to make “salary” payments to his family, even though none of his family members ever worked for the plan. He also used plan funds to pay off a $25,000 loan on his son’s Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 sports car.
Romero also filed a false financial report with the U.S. Department of Labor in which he concealed the existence of more than $100,000 in union receipts and disbursements that Romero held in a secret bank account and from which he made regular payments to his mistress.
Romero advanced his scheme by appointing his son as the secretary and treasurer of the union. He later appointed his ex-wife, Evelyn Romero, 71, as the UISWA president and trustee in 2010, shortly before Romero began serving a two-year federal prison sentence for making false statements to federal officials while he was president of a different labor union. Romero’s son, ex-wife, and daughter, Danae Romero, 42, of Loma Linda, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in this case. Evelyn and Danae Romero each were sentenced to two years’ probation in this case. John J. Romero was sentenced to time served in prison, plus three years of supervised release.
At a September 9 hearing, Judge Phillips ordered this case’s other defendants to pay restitution in the following amounts: Evelyn Romero – $316,502; John J. Romero – $273,350; and Danae Romero – $200,552.
If he serves his full sentence, Romero will be 86 years old when he is released from prison.
Featured Image Credit.