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4 indicted in conspiracy to steal teachers' union funds
(Published December 1, 2003)

Two former Washington Teachers' Union officials and two WTU accountants were arraigned Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court on a 27-count indictment charging them in an alleged conspiracy to embezzle $4.6 million of union funds.

A federal grand jury on Nov. 20 indicted James O. Baxter, the union's treasurer from 1994 through September 2002, and Gwendolyn Hemphill, who served from 1996 through September 2002 as executive assistant to then-WTU president Barbara Bullock. Also indicted were two suburban Maryland accountants, James Goosby and Robin Klein, who are charged with helping to conceal the theft of funds by preparing false financial documents for the union.

All four surrendered themselves to the FBI's Washington Field Office, in lieu of being arrested on federal warrants.

Baxter's attorney, Lisa A. Jones, said her client welcomes his indictment, because it "starts the legal process that will enable [him] to prove his innocence of any conspiracy to defraud the teachers of the District of Columbia."

Jones criticized prosecutors' "rush to judgment" about her client and said she is "confident that once the true facts are presented," Baxter will be acquitted by a jury.
The indictments were the latest installment in a continuing investigation that began in the summer of 2002 when D.C. public school teachers complained that their union was deducting too much in dues from their paychecks.

Last fall, federal agents searched union officials' homes and confiscated thousands of dollars worth of personal luxury items that were allegedly paid for with union funds. Four persons, including former union chief Bullock, already have pleaded guilty to participating in the money-laundering scheme and have agreed to cooperate with investigators.
During a Nov. 20 press conference, U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. called the indictments "the next step in unraveling this scheme" and said an active investigation is continuing.

"It's far from over - we still have a lot of work to do," he said. "There are still other persons we continue to investigate in this web of corruption. ...We're going to keep drilling until we hit a wall. We haven't gotten there yet."

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator