By BRIAN BOHNERT
FOR THE COURIER
The former financial secretary of a Fostoria union local was sentenced this week to 16 months in prison for embezzling more than $43,000 from the union.
U.S. District Court Judge James Carr in Toledo sentenced Aaron M. Contreras, 34, of Fostoria, on Wednesday. Contreras pleaded guilty in October to embezzling funds from the union, which represents electricians, machinists and furniture workers.
In addition to the prison term, Contreras was ordered to pay $43,293 in restitution and serve three years of probation.
He was financial secretary of Local 84749 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers — Communications Workers of America.
Contreras stole $42,700 in union funds between Jan. 2 and Dec. 10, 2015, “for which he prepared a false financial report on or about Nov. 30, 2015 to conceal his embezzlement,” his federal indictment states.
With ATM withdrawal fees, the total loss to the union was $43,293.
“It’s sad, but that’s what happens when you go and do stuff like that,” said Michael Kroetz, union local president. “He stole from 115 people.”
Kroetz said he discovered the missing funds in December 2015 after noticing that Contreras had not been reporting to work. While removing Contreras from the account, he obtained a printout of the union’s funds that showed a balance of only around $200.
“It was probably two or three times a week he would go to the ATM and take money out,” Kroetz said.
Kroetz contacted both the Fostoria Police Department and the U.S. Department of Labor about filing charges against Contreras. The case was sent to federal court in September.
The loss of the money has been hard for the union, Kroetz said. In addition to having to forgo specialized training for its members, Kroetz said the group had to scrap plans to seal and stripe the parking lot of its headquarters.
“We really had to tighten our belt,” he said. “But we’re recovering. We’re soldiering on.”
Kroetz said no one knows exactly what Contreras did with the money.
“The judge asked where the money went and (Contreras) just acted like he didn’t hear that question,” Kroetz said. “He just went on and started talking about something else.”
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