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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

National Labor Organization Employee Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars from Union

Defendant Used Stolen Money for Personal Purchases

            WASHINGTON – Donnell Owens, a former employee of the American Federation of Government Employees, pleaded guilty today to one count of embezzlement and theft of labor union assets stemming from a scheme in which he stole more than $275,000.

            The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Mark Wheeler, Director of the Washington District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards.

            Owens, 34, of District Heights, Md., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and potential financial penalties.  Under federal sentencing guidelines, Owens faces a likely range of 24 to 30 months in prison, a fine of up to $95,000, and restitution.  The Honorable Judge Reggie B. Walton scheduled sentencing for Jan. 21, 2022.

            According to the statement of offense submitted to the Court and admitted by Owens, from October 2014 through June 2018, Owens worked as a Secretary to the Director of Communications at the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a labor organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. which represents workers in various functions of the private sector and the government affecting commerce throughout the United States and overseas.  During this period, Owens embezzled approximately $275,524 in AFGE funds for his use and the use of others. 

            As detailed in court documents, throughout the scheme Owens abused and misused his position and employment at AFGE in order to seek and obtain illegal monetary gains at the expense of the labor organization.  For example, Owens submitted false and fraudulent check requests for payments related to services, such as photography and videography, that were purportedly provided by alleged vendors.  As a result of these submissions, AFGE funds were subsequently disbursed.  These check requests listed fictitious dollar amounts for fake work assignments supposedly performed by vendors, who were not actually hired by AFGE.  In fact, the purported vendors who allegedly performed the fake work assignments were really friends and associates of Owens, who he recruited as part of his illegal scheme. 

            As Secretary to the Director of Communications, Owens also had access to an Amazon account and a union credit card linked to it. During the scheme, Owens also used this account and linked credit card to embezzle items and make dozens of unauthorized personal purchases, including clothing, shoes, jewelry, and party supplies.  Additionally, Owens used union credit cards to purchase items from other online retailers for personal use, including T-shirts for his online business, microphones, and flowers. 

            To avoid detection and cover up the fraud, Owens provided falsified signatures, fraudulent expense vouchers, and altered receipts for these items.  However, the investigation revealed photos of Owens, his family members, and associates wearing the clothing purchased on Amazon with the union credit card on social media accounts belonging to the defendant.

            This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards.  The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by U.S. Attorney Emily A. Miller and Paralegal Specialists Amanda Rohde and Mariela Andrade.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Labor & Employment
Updated October 20, 2021