Feds Say Benefits Admin. Stole $40M for Herself

     NEW YORK (CN) – The former administrator of a construction workers’ union was indicted Wednesday on charges of embezzling $40 million from the employee benefit funds she administered, prosecutors said.

     Prosecutors say Melissa King, former administrator of the Sandhogs’ Union, transferred more than $42 million by check from the bank accounts of the Local 147 funds into an account controlled by her company, King Care.
Officials say the checks ranged in amounts from $20,000 to $65,000, “sometimes several in a single day.”
     Prosecutors also say more than $40 million of that money was used to pay King’s personal expenses, including a $7 million bill to American Express, $5 million to buy horses, $500,000 for an E-Trade account, $300,000 for women’s clothing, and $1 million for diamonds.
     The lawsuit also says King, 58, used the money to pay for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for housekeepers and a tutor for her children. Prosecutors also say she spent benefit money on private flights, $300,000 to buy a Porsche, and transferred $11 million to her other bank accounts.
     “Melissa King was entrusted with money that hard-working people counted on for their future retirement and medical care,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with the Southern District of New York, “Instead, she allegedly pilfered huge sums with a personal spending spree of epic proportions.”
King’s contract with Local 147 ended Dec. 31, 2008. She was arrested and is out on bail, official said.
     She faces one count of theft and embezzlement, and 11 counts of money laundering.
     If convicted, King faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the embezzlement count, and 10 years on each of the 11 laundering counts.
     All counts carry a maximum fine of $250,000, prosecutors said.
     Authorities seek to seize all the property King allegedly bought with the money, including property, cars, jewelry, diamonds, horses and the money from her bank accounts.

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