A former union official was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday on charges that he stole $1.5 million from the benefit funds of carpenters in New Jersey and New York.
George Laufenberg, 69, faces several counts of embezzlement and other charges for allegedly paying himself a $120,000 pension and $180,000 in annual deferred compensation without retiring or getting approval from the fund’s trustees, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey announced. Laufenberg formerly served as the administrative manager of the pension, annuity, health and training/apprenticeship funds for the carpenters’ union in New Jersey, which also has New York members. Laufenberg is also accused of giving his friend, who was “a low-show employee at the funds,” a full salary with a pension, annuity contributions and full health care coverage.
An attorney for Laufenberg could not immediately be reached for comment.
The indictment follows a whistleblower complaint that accused Laufenberg of similar offenses. John Ballantyne, who was the executive secretary-treasurer of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, a subsidiary that was recently dissolved, claimed in the lawsuit that he was fired after bringing Laufenberg’s actions to light. Ballantyne alleged that other union leaders wanted to deal with Laufenberg internally, and were upset that he was fired. The lawsuit was settled, but Politico reported in April that federal authorities were investigating the claims. Last year, Ballantyne’s union was disbanded and merged into three different regional chapters.
Other chapters within the carpenters’ union parent organization, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, are also currently dealing with fraud accusations. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters is mulling whether or not to take over Local 926, a subsidiary of the New York City District Council of Carpenters, following the arrest of its president on conspiracy and fraud charges. A hearing was held on the matter earlier this month, but no decision has been publicly announced.