Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Los Angeles Times on Conviction of SEIU's Tyrone Freeman

The Los Angeles Times has published a longer article on yesterday's guilty verdict against SEIU's Tyrone Freeman on 14 criminal counts.

The article includes quotes from NUHW president Sal Rosselli and a homecare worker who's a member of SEIU. Here's a link to NUHW's statement on Freeman's conviction. And here's the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the jury's guilty verdict.

Finally, here are some excerpts from the latest LA Times article. (This is a link to the full article.)

Los Angeles Times

Ex-SEIU local exec convicted of stealing from low-income members

By Paul Pringle and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times

January 28, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

A onetime rising star in national labor circles who headed California's biggest union local was convicted Monday on federal charges that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from his low-income members.

Tyrone Freeman, who represented about 190,000 homecare workers as a leader of the Service Employees International Union, was found guilty on 14 counts after a 10-day trial in Los Angeles.

Jurors deliberated two and a half days before returning their verdict. The trial followed a nearly four-year investigation triggered by a series of Times reports on Freeman's financial practices.

"This was a case about abuse and betrayal," U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said in a statement after the verdict. "Freeman abused his position as leader of the SEIU, and he betrayed the hardworking people whose interests he was supposed to represent."

Freeman, 43, faces a maximum of more than 180 years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing in April. His attorneys declined to comment.

Monday's verdict marks the end of a steep fall from grace for a man groomed for a major role in the SEIU, the 2-million-member labor juggernaut that is a dominant force in worker organizing campaigns and Democratic elections from coast to coast.

As president of SEIU Local 6434 and an affiliated chapter of homecare workers, Freeman carried significant clout in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., because he commanded deep sources of campaign money and foot soldiers.

In August, he was indicted on charges of embezzling from his statewide local of mostly $9-an-hour workers and using some of the stolen money to cover costs from his Hawaiian wedding. Other charges were mail fraud, violation of tax laws and giving false information to a mortgage lender…

At the time, Freeman's annual compensation was about $200,000, making him one of the higher-paid union leaders in the nation…

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, FBI and Internal Revenue Service. It began after The Times reported in August 2008 that Freeman funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars of his members' dues, and money from a related charity, to his relatives. He also spent freely on a Four Seasons Resort golf tournament, expensive restaurants and a Beverly Hills cigar club…

The Freeman case also helped widened a division within SEIU's California ranks. Officials of a local headquartered in the Bay Area broke away from the parent union and formed a rival organization after resisting a merger that they said would have placed their members under Freeman's control.

"When union bosses get all the power and they're not accountable to their members, it leads to the corruption that is spelled out today in the conviction of Tyrone Freeman," said Sal Rosselli, president of the rival group, the National Union of Healthcare Workers…

The verdict was cheered by Local 6434 members such as Raquel Toribio, 69, a Monterey County homecare worker paid to look after her son, who has Down syndrome. "I'm very happy to hear Freeman's going to pay for what he stole," she said. "It has been a long time." …