Greenbelt, MD (STL.News) Sarah Geddes Holmes, age 65, of Clinton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charges of embezzlement from a labor organization and bank fraud. Holmes, who was the Secretary-Treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local Lodge 24, admitted that she embezzled $294,585.18 from the union.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and District Director Mark Wheeler of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor – Management Standards.
Between May 2015 and June 2018, Local 24 represented approximately 423 members, who worked for 10 different employers at Andrews Air Force Base. Local 24 members paid monthly dues that were intended to fund legitimate union purposes, including bargaining with employers, litigating grievances, and providing any administrative support that Local 24 required to conduct its business.
According to her guilty plea, from May 2015 through June 2018, while Holmes was the Secretary-Treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local Lodge 24 (“Local 24”), she embezzled union funds by writing checks to herself, altering checks and entries in Local 24’s accounting software, and forging signatures. One hundred thirty-eight checks were signed only by Holmes, in violation of Local 24’s bylaws, which require that funds disbursed from the union’s account via check be countersigned by the President of Local 24.
Holmes forged the second signature on 22 checks; and altered information in Local 24’s accounting software to fraudulently obtain 33 checks. Additional, in order to fraudulently deposit the Local 24 checks, Holmes altered the check numbers on 14 checks, as well as altered the dates on four of those 14 checks and altered the amount on one of those 14 checks. Finally, Holmes deposited one check twice—the second deposit being fraudulent. In total, Holmes deposited 160 fraudulent checks, totaling $294,585.18. Holmes deposited the checks into her personal checking account—primarily using a mobile application on her cellular phone.
Holmes used the fraudulently obtained union funds at casinos and to make personal purchases, including food, household goods, beauty supplies, online gaming, and other gambling-related charges. On 17 occasions, Holmes deposited fraudulent Local 24 checks, totaling $39,894.79 on the same day that her player card was used at Maryland Live! Casino.
As detailed in her plea agreement, in order to conceal her embezzlement, Holmes altered Local 24’s accounting software. In some instances, Holmes to made it appear as though the checks Holmes wrote to herself were authorized for a legitimate union purpose. In other instances, Holmes changed the amounts listed for some checks and/or changed the name of the payee or the memo attached to that check. The false records in Local 24’s accounting software resulted in false reports that were filed by the union with the Department of Labor and signed by Holmes as Secretary-Treasurer. On two occasions, on December 4, 2017, and April 23, 2018, Holmes returned a total of $30,000 to Local 24’s bank account. However, Holmes continued embezzling union funds by writing checks to herself during and after she made these deposits.
As part of her plea agreement, Holmes will be required to forfeit and pay restitution in the full amount of the victim’s losses, which is at least $264,585.18.
Holmes faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for embezzlement from a labor organization and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison for bank fraud. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang has scheduled sentencing for March 4, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor – Management Standards for its work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rajeev R. Raghavan and Erin B. Pulice, who are prosecuting the federal case.