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Ex-SEIU local chief Freeman indicted in L.A. on federal corruption charges

City News Service | 8/1/2012, 9:12 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The former head of one of the nation's largest union locals was indicted today on charges of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the Los Angeles-based labor organization.

Tyrone R. Freeman, 42, is charged with four counts of mail fraud, seven counts of embezzlement and/or theft of labor union assets, one count of making a false statement to a federally insured financial institution and three counts of submitting a false tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Freeman was president of Service Employees International Union Local 6434, representing about 180,000 low-wage workers who provide in-home healthcare services, until 2008.

"While serving as president of his local union, Freeman allegedly used his position to enrich himself at the expense of union members," said Abel Salinas of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Freeman, who is currently living in Pittsburgh, Penn., is expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles federal court on Sept. 24.

Freeman allegedly pilfered money from the local known as United Long Term Care Workers by diverting reimbursement payments from a public-sector union that had close ties to the healthcare workers group.

The indictment alleges that for about 18 months, Freeman secretly collected $2,500 per month from the local and California United Homecare Workers, which was established in 2005 to represent public sector employees working in the homecare industry in California, in addition to his regular salary.

The indictment also alleges that Freeman used a union credit card to pay $8,105 in personal expenses incurred during a 2006 trip to Honolulu, including bills related to his wedding ceremony.

Two of the embezzlement charges pertain to Freeman's alleged theft of $17,000 from the local by routing funds through another entity closely aligned with the union--the Long Term Care Housing Corporation, a nonprofit corporation started to provide affordable housing for union members.

The false statement charge alleges that Freeman lied to Countrywide Bank when he told a bank representative that Local 6434 paid for his personal American Express credit card bills and the monthly lease payments for his Land Rover, prosecutors said.

The three tax charges allege that Freeman submitted false tax returns in 2006, 2007 and 2008 when he failed to report about $100,000 in income he received during those tax years.

Each count of mail fraud and making a false statement to a federal insured financial institution carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Each count of embezzlement and/or theft of labor union assets and submitting a false tax return carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Freeman's wife, Pilar Planells, pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor income tax charge in connection with more than $540,000 she received in consulting payments from the local. She is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 20 in federal court.