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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

Ex-Laborers officer gets probation

BLADE STAFF

The former recording secretary of Laborer's Union Local 500, who acknowledged using a union credit card to pay for visits to two strip clubs, was sentenced in federal court yesterday to one year of probation.

Thomas Leonard, of 2731 Glendale Ave., apologized in U.S. District Court yesterday for his actions in 2004 that led to a lengthy federal investigation and a charge of labor union embezzlement.

A fellow former officer, Steven Thomas, faces two counts of labor union embezzlement and will go to trial in May.

"I would just like to say, Judge, that I'm sorry for what has happened," Leonard told Judge David Katz prior to sentencing. The husband and father of two declined further comment after the hearing.

Leonard pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to using a credit card given to him by the construction union to pay for $4,386 in expenses at two strip clubs - Scarlett's Gentlemen's Club in Toledo and Kahoot's Gentlemen's Club in Columbus.

Authorities said the personal expenses charged at the establishments were reimbursed by the union despite not being authorized by the union board or membership.

Judge Katz noted that Leonard paid restitution to the union in November, 2005, and said that Leonard's acceptance of responsibility and lack of a criminal record were taken into consideration during sentencing.

"He has reimbursed the union. He has lost his position, a respected position, with the union and he now has, probably the most important aspect of this, a felony record, which will be an impediment as life goes forward, especially his working life," the judge said.

He added that a sentence of probation does not mean the court took the action lightly.

The investigation of the two employees, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, led to criminal indictments being filed on July 23.

Leonard and Mr. Thomas were removed from office in 2007 after the parent organization of Local 500, Laborers International Union of North America, filed disciplinary charges against the men.

Attorney Jerry Phillips said yesterday that Leonard would be subjected to a 13-year ban on holding any union office. He added that his client is looking for employment.

"After going through the documentation they had, he realized what he had done was a violation and he wanted to set it straight and move on," Mr. Phillips said. "I think it was an appropriate resolution under the circumstances."

Phil Copeland, who is the union's business manager and Mr. Thomas' cousin, said he was relieved the issue was nearing an end.

Mr. Copeland said the union has made several changes that would prevent a similar incident and that members are hoping to put the situation behind them.

"Hopefully this is coming to an end and they can move on and Local 500 can move on like we've been trying to do," he said.

Mr. Thomas is slated to go to trial May 15 before Judge Jack Zouhary. The Toledo man is accused of using a Local 500 credit card to pay for $17,500 worth of expenses at strip clubs between December, 2003, and December, 2004.

Mr. Thomas also is accused of receiving cash advancements for travel between September, 2001, and October, 2005, that equaled about $11,000, but "for which he did not provide receipts or for which he did not incur legitimate union expense," the indictment states.

Attorney Jon Richardson recently was retained to handle the criminal proceedings.

Last week, attorney Richard Mitchell filed a civil lawsuit against the union in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Mr. Thomas' behalf, alleging that he was denied $23,587.20 in accrued vacation time.

The case was assigned to Judge Gene Zmuda.

- Erica Blake



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