May 24, 2018
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Jonesport woman pleads guilty to embezzling union funds

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A Jonesport woman has waived indictment and pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $30,000 in union funds from the Downeast Federation of Healthcare Professionals, which represents employees at Narraguagus Bay Health Care Facility in Milbridge.

Bernardette Beal, 58, is free on personal recognizance bail

Beal, who spent members’ union dues to pay personal expenses, entered her plea this past Friday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

She was president of the Teachers, AFL-CIO, Downeast Federation of Healthcare Professionals, Local 5073, from sometime in the 1990s to Jan. 20, 2009, according to court documents. Beal served as a volunteer for the union but had sole financial control over the bank account where union dues were deposited after being withdrawn from workers’ biweekly paychecks.

Court documents indicate Beal’s thefts went back to at least June 2003. The statute of limitations, however, is five years, so Beal cannot be prosecuted for whatever funds, if any, she may have embezzled before January 2005.

The union did not have an office so had no expenses for mortgage, rent, fuel, utilities, phone or television, according to court documents. The organization did not hold meetings, so had no expenses for food and other supplies.

Beal, however, signed checks from the union dues account made out to Direct TV, Verizon, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., Hannaford, Citgo and Wal-Mart along with credit card companies and other banks. Beal made out at least a dozen of the checks to herself, according to court documents.

She faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for stealing the funds between 2005 and January 2010, when her ongoing theft was uncovered.

A sentencing date has not been set.

In her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Beal agreed to repay $24,131 to the union before she is sentenced. Earlier this year, she repaid the union $5,000.

By pleading guilty, Beal also waived her right to appeal the sentence if it is 21 months or less.

Beal’s attorney, Stephen Smith of Bangor, said Wednesday that his client is employed but is no longer working at Narraguagus Bay Health Care Facility.

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