Former SEIU local president Tyrone Freeman has been convicted of embezzling from the low-wage employees he once represented. He now faces a maximum of 180 years in prison.
Freeman was considered a rising star in the SEIU. As president of Local 6434, a statewide affiliate of the SEIU representing homecare workers, Freeman represented more than 150,000 union members. Many of the employees who make up Local 6434 make just $9 an hour, but Freeman was making $200,000 a year.
Even so, Freeman apparently felt his salary was not large enough. He used his position as local president to misdirect funds, including thousands to cover expenses incurred during his wedding in Hawaii. The union was also paying some of his personal American Express bills and the monthly bill on his Land Rover.
In addition, Freeman directed more than half a million dollars in consulting fees to a firm run by his wife. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge related to the funds last year.
The LA Times reports that some union members celebrated Freeman's conviction. Raquel Toribio, who has a son with Down syndrome which requires home care, told the paper, "I'm very happy to hear Freeman's going to pay for what he stole. It has been a long time."
The uncovering of Freeman's lavish spending began four years ago after an investigative report by the LA Times.