National Labor Organization Employee Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling More Than $270,000 from Union
WASHINGTON – Donnell Owens, a former employee of the American Federation of Government Employees, was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for an embezzlement scheme in which he stole more than $270,000 from the labor union.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, 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, Maryland, pleaded guilty in October 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to one count of embezzlement and theft of labor union assets. He was sentenced by the Honorable Reggie B. Walton. Following his prison term, Owens will be placed on three years of supervised release. He also must pay $273,745 in restitution and an equal amount in a forfeiture money judgment.
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 more than $270,000 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 Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Miller and Paralegal Specialists Amanda Rohde and Mariela Andrade.
A senior Police Officer in Kenya has recounted how he was defrauded of Ksh 597, 100 by syndicate via sim card swap.
Commanding Police Division (OCPD), Peter Mwanzo, testified against one of the members of the syndicate , one Gideon Mark before a magistrate’s court in Milimani, Nairobi, where the latter was accused of stealing Ksh597,100 in a sim-swap fraud.
He stated that at about 6.45 pm he received a phone call from a private number but he did not pick up although the caller kept bugging his phone. He put the phone in flight mode to avoid further disturbance.
He deactivated the flight mode at 6.50pm, but his mobile phone failed to pick up the signal. Mwanzo rechecked his phone at 9 pm but it had not yet picked network.
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Mwanzo stated that after the problem persisted, he visited a sim card outlet in the neighbourhood to get assistance. The attendant, he narrated, informed him that his sim card had failed and advised him to do a replacement.
The senior police officer continues :
“She could not tell how I lost the sim card but I did the replacement and it was reactivated. Upon turning on my phone, I was surprised by the messages that started coming in.
"I tried to purchase airtime and send money but the transaction failed and got a message that I had exceeded my limits,” the senior police officer told the court.
“I was shocked that I had even registered a loan and a mobile money account. I had never applied for any loan or registered with the subscriber,” Mwanzo recalled.
He told the court that he does not know how and where the fraudsters obtained his private information to carry out the bank transactions.
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The statements indicated that the money was moved in four batches. The police boss noted that although the scammers were in Donholm, Nairobi, the money that was stolen from his account was withdrawn by a third party in Bomet.
Mwanzo requested his mobile money and bank account statements to confirm the alleged transactions.
“To my surprise, on that night, I had transacted from a bank account to mobile money about Ksh597,100,” he stated.
“Someone used my sim card remotely. This is madness and it seemed easy for the third party to use my sim card.” the senior police officer lamented.