Ballet Dancers’ Union’s Lawyer Nailed

MANHATTAN (CN) – An attorney for a small, independent union of ballet dancers and stagehands pleaded guilty Thursday to falsifying reports about more than $350,000 in checks he wrote to himself, his law firm and his ex-wife, from the union account.

     Leonard Leibowitz faces up to 1 year in federal prison at his Oct. 14 sentencing.
     Leibowitz, 72, of Highland Beach, Fla., agreed to forfeit “the proceeds of his crime” and pay $76,071 in restitution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in announcing the guilty plea.
     Leibowitz represented the Independent Artists of America, a union of about 80 dancers and stagehands at Lincoln Center’s American Ballet Theatre. Union members paid a total of about $80,000 a year in dues, and Leibowitz controlled the account.
     “In 1997, Leibowitz told a union official he was having financial difficulties and obtained an advance on his monthly retainer,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “It was later discovered that Leibowitz wrote IAA checks totaling more than $350,000 to himself, his law firm, and his former wife.”
     New union leaders found in 2007 that Leibowitz had paid himself $150,000 more than the union actually owed him. He called the money “loans,” and signatures of union officials who allegedly had reviewed his reports had been forged, prosecutors said.
     “When confronted by new IAA leadership about his withdrawal of union funds for personal use, Leibowitz stated, among other things, that he needed the money because he owed money to the government, and his children attended private school. Leibowitz also admitted that by 2000 he realized he had borrowed more than he could pay back,” according to the U.S. attorney’s statement.
     Leibowitz must pay the $76,071 to the American Guild of Musical Artists, the successor to the IAA.

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