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Former SEIU union local president convicted of embezzlement

Former SEIU union local president Tyrone Freeman was convicted of embezzlement and other charges.The former president of California’s largest union local was found guilty by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Monday of stealing from the low-wage workers he represented.

Tyrone Freeman, who led Local 6434 of the Service Employees International Union, was convicted on 14 criminal counts, including embezzlement of union funds, violating tax laws and mail fraud.

As president of SEIU Local 6434 -- the second-largest SEIU chapter in the nation -- Freeman, 43, represented 160,000 low-wage healthcare workers who cared for the elderly and people with disabilities. He also represented 30,000 workers as president of the California United Homecare Workers.

Prosecutors accused Freeman of billing the union for “elaborate personal expenses,” including more than $8,000 in costs related to his 2006 wedding in Honolulu, according to court documents.

Freeman ostensibly was marrying Pilar Planells, his executive assistant at the union local. But at the time of the wedding, he was still married to his first wife, according to a trial memorandum filed by the prosecution earlier this month.

Planells pleaded guilty earlier this year to an income tax charge in connection with more than $540,000 she received in consulting payments from the union.

The charges against Freeman grew out of a series of Times reports regarding Freeman’s financial dealings while leading SEIU Local 6434. The Times reported that Freeman funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ union dues and money from an affiliated charity to his relatives.

Freeman stepped down from his job in 2008, shortly after The Times' report.

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-- Hailey Branson-Potts

Photo: Tyrone Freeman. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
 
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