The president of a union representing law enforcement officers in New York City was arrested on July 13 and charged with stealing more than $500,000 from the union and its members.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of New York charged Kenneth Wynder Jr., the president of Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA), with one count of wire fraud for allegedly misappropriating $500,000 from the union’s annuity fund. The prosecutors also charged the union’s treasurer, Steven Whittick, with obstruction of justice for allegedly repeatedly lying to federal agents investigating the fraud.
LEEBA represents police officers working for New York City’s departments of environmental protection, sanitation, and transportation.
“As alleged, both law enforcement and civilian members of multiple city agencies had their retirement savings compromised by two individuals who prioritized their own financial well-being over that of the hardworking men and women who dedicated their livelihood to serving the public,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.
According to the indictment, Wynder, a former New York state trooper, dominated the union and often acted without the approval of the board of directors and trustees. Wynder allegedly abused that power to steal, embezzle, and misappropriate money from the union’s annuity fund and individual members’ retirement accounts.
Since 2012, Wynder carried out the scheme by transferring money from the fund to the union’s operation account and then using the account to pay most of the $77,000 cost and financing of a luxury Lexus automobile. He also drew cash from the fund to pay $2,000 monthly for a rental apartment in Queens, as well for personal clothing and travel and entertainment expenses.
Whittick, a former New York City Department of Environmental Protection police officer, allegedly attempted to help cover up Wynder’s fraud once he learned of the federal inquiry in 2017. According to the indictment, Whittick repeatedly lied to agents to obstruct the investigation, including about some of the financial improprieties Whittick was involved with himself. On at least two occasions, Whittick withdrew $16,000 in cash from the union’s bank account and deposited $15,000 into Wynder’s account and $1,000 into his own account.
Wynder, 56, and Whittick, 50, both face up to 20 years in prison. They were expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger in Manhattan on July 13.
“Today we have charged two leaders of a union that represents local law enforcement officers for engaging in criminal conduct, something they and their membership are sworn to combat,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
The FBI raided the union’s office in downtown Manhattan on Sept. 18, 2019, according to the indictment (pdf). Wynder attempted to withdraw more money from the fund after the raid, but was blocked by the fund’s custodian.