News and Press Releases

Former Union Head Heads to Federal Prison For Conspiracy to Embezzle

Oct. 1, 2012

HOUSTON - Ronald Witt, the former business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 450, has been sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to embezzle union funds, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Mark Adler, director of the Dallas Regional Office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, and District Director Daniel Cherry of the Office of Labor Management Standards, Department of Labor (OLMS).
           
Local 450’s primary officer is its business manager. At the time of his guilty plea Jan. 19, 2012, Witt, 66, of Galveston, admitted he used Local 450's funds to pay for luxury trips for himself and friends, to remodel his Galveston home and for various other personal expenses. Witt also admitted that he took funds destined for other purposes and that he covered up the scheme by forging Local 450's business records.

Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt handed Witt a 12-month prison sentence and further ordered he pay approximately $200,000 in restitution.

Local 450 represents approximately 1,000 members employed in the crane rigging and hoisting industry in southern and eastern Texas. Local 450, a non-profit organization, receives most of its income from monthly dues payments and three percent working dues from its members. Witt resigned his leadership of Local 450 in April 2009, at which time it was taken over by the International.  
             
The year-long investigation leading to these charges was prompted by a referral from the International Union of Operating Engineers.  

“OLMS continuously updates its website, www.olms.dol.gov, to provide labor unions with the tools needed to stay informed and comply with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA),” said Cherry. “The OLMS website provides access to union annual financial reports, makes available compliance tips and other publications and offers suggestions for improving unions' internal financial controls. In this case, the union had the resources necessary, recognized there was a problem and reported it to OLMS. As a result, OLMS was able to investigate the matter and seek justice for the dues-paying members of Local 450.”

Previously released on bond, Witt was allowed to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The investigation was conducted by the Employee Benefits Security Administration and OLMS and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys F. Andino Reynal and Edward Gallagher.

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