CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge has allowed a former union boss to serve an out-of-prison sentence for embezzling thousands of dollars from the AFL-CIO Steelworkers Logan County chapter.
U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston said Thursday that he did not believe former Logan AFL-CIO Local 14505 president Freda Hensley, 67, deserved prison time for cashing the organization's pre-signed blank checks in her own name and using the $38,539 to fuel a gambling addiction.
Instead, the judge ordered Hensley to spend five years on probation and repay the union nearly $36,500 -- in monthly installments of $100, a judgment that would take her more than 30 years to complete.
"Mrs. Hensley," Johnston said during Hensley's sentencing hearing, "stealing from your union is a serious offense, regardless of the reason."
He later added that he did not believe a prison sentence was necessary because of the amount of money stolen, Hensley's genuine remorse for the crime and her cooperation with federal authorities during her investigation.
Hensley was president of the AFL-CIO in Logan from April 2004 though June 2010, and had access to the union's checking account and authority to co-sign checks linked to that account, according to a federal plea agreement.
Hensley requested that others, whose signatures were required on the checks, pre-sign blank checks and give them to her, the plea states.
From August 2008 to May 2010, Hensley wrote and cashed 52 of the pre-signed blank checks and made them payable to herself. She made two payable to her mother, the plea states.
She pleaded guilty in October to embezzlement of union assets.
While heading the union, Hensley worked a second job in a nursing home. Between shifts, she played video poker at a bar across the street from her home, according to a sentencing memorandum authored by Hensley's lawyer, federal public defender Mary Lou Newberger.