Virginia Beach man pleaded guilty to embezzling $1M from longshoremen

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A Virginia Beach man faces up to 20 years in prison for his role in a 10-year-scheme to defraud a longshoreman’s union of more than $1 million.

Robert Smith III, 48, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of mail fraud stemming from his theft of $1,072,668 in funds from the International Longshoreman’s Association, Local 970, according to a release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Smith served as the union’s financial secretary and business agent. Members of Local 970 work at the Port of Virginia.

“Over 600 people are victims of Mr. Smith’s selfish crime,” U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente said in the release. “Mr. Smith was entrusted with ensuring the financial health and stability of Local 970, and instead chose to steal over $1 million for his personal benefit.”

Between March 2006 and April 2016, Smith deposited union initiation fees and member dues into a bank account maintained by the union and withdrew more than $700,000 from the account to pay for personal expenses, including gas, food, clothing, shoes, toys, entertainment, home improvement supplies and personal credit card bills.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask in Norfolk accepted Smith’s guilty plea.

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Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.