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.
The All Workers Convergence(AWC) has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a qualified person with vast experience in labour matters as Minister of Labor.
The AWC gave this advice through its National Coordinator, Comrade Andrew Emelieze.
‘’What is expected from authentic leadership is to put the right persons in the right positions. People who are professionals in their particular fields, who possess not just academic qualifications but also practical experiences.’’
‘’Our expectation is that President Muhammadu Buhari will search for someone who is knowledgeable in the field of industrial relations and other related courses. President Buhari should not resort to political patronage as far as the Ministry of Labor is concerned. The Ministry of Labor should not be an all comers affair as we have seen in the outgoing dispensation, where a Medical Doctor is saddled with the responsibility of industrial relations.’’
‘’Though while giving this advice we know that the President might have his own personal views and approach to such issues, which of course had led to the delay in the appointment of Ministers in this dispensation and we have seen the results. Therefore if the President does not take to popular advice, one might not expect anything extraordinary in terms of performance from his new Ministers. After all, despite all the noticeable shortcomings and non performance of the Ministers, President Buhari was unable to change his cabinet for four years’’, Comrade Emelieze concluded