MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Tacoma man sentenced for defrauding union retirement plans

Jul 7, 2023, 11:55 AM | Updated: Jul 12, 2023, 8:42 am

IBEW...

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

A 52-year-old Tacoma man was sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding more than $200,000 from union retirement plans.

Erik A. Read worked as a third-party administrator for three union health and welfare and pension plans when he “improperly diverted funds” into his own bank account.

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He was sentenced to three years in prison by a U.S. District Court in Seattle for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for stealing more than $200,000 from a union member’s account and other retirement plans.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, Read “had a position of trust that he utilized to steal money…. This was not a one-time event…. he put together an elaborate scheme to steal money.”

Read managed accounts for three different unions, the Western Washington Painter Defined Contribution Pension Plan, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 191 Health and Welfare Plan, and the Washington State Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry Plan.

Between April 2018 and May 2019, Read was accused of falsifying records, forged signatures, and doctored a driver’s license to make it appear that the victim wanted his funds withdrawn from the fund to pay for medical treatment for a terminal illness.

“Mr. Read used his specialized knowledge to steal the money a commercial painter had paid into his pension plan, hoping his theft would go undetected,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “Read’s conduct was a highly detailed scheme involving forged records, fake IDs, and lies to colleagues. It didn’t just harm the victim financially, it also created great stress when the worker saw his pension vanish.”

Read claimed to his coworkers that he was going to deliver the checks by hand to the victim and his family. In fact, Read deposited the checks into his own bank account.

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“While the financial impacts of Read’s crimes were great, the non-financial impacts on both individuals Read worked for and on behalf of are unquantifiable. The impacts include the stress on (one victim) upon learning his retirement had been stolen and his efforts to recoup it,” prosecutor Brian Wynne wrote in his sentencing agreement. “The impacts also include the stress experienced by Read’s colleagues who unwittingly helped Read carry out the fraud and the stress and managerial impacts on the trusts whose plans Read administered.”

Even though he was earning $150,000 a year, he was improperly taking funds from the pension plans that he worked on. Read has agreed to pay $294,251 to the victim’s pension plans or their insurers.

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