Union official pleads guilty to stealing over $1 million from ILA Local 970

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach man pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges for a decade-long scheme to defraud a union, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Local 970, of over $1 million.

48-year-old Robert Smith served as the business agent and the financial secretary for ILA Local 970, a union whose members provide labor to the Port of Virginia.

Court documents say from March 2006 through April 2016, Smith devised a scheme to embezzle funds from the Local 970 bank accounts. Prosecutors say he deposited new member initiation fees and member dues received from local employers into an ILA bank account and then used the funds for his own personal purposes.

Over a period of 10 years, Smith stole about $1,072,668 of union funds. He withdrew over $700,000 in cash, paid his personal credit card bills and used the money to purchase gas, food, clothing, shoes, toys, entertainment and home improvement supplies.

“Over 600 people are victims of Mr. Smith’s selfish crime,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “Mr. Smith was entrusted with ensuring the financial health and stability of Local 970, and instead chose to steal over $1 million for his personal benefit.”

Smith faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced on February 7, 2017.