LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The former president of a Colton-based labor union was found guilty Wednesday of 14 felony charges for stealing nearly $800,000 from the union’s health plan fund.
A jury found John S. Romero, 73, of Loma Linda, guilty of one count of conspiracy, 12 counts of theft in connection with health care, and one count of making a false statement to a government agency. From 2008 to 2014, Romero embezzled nearly $800,000 from the union’s health plan fund, which he used to pay for personal expenses including legal bills and a car loan for his son’s Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.
During the five-day trial, evidence showed Romero appointed himself president of United Industrial Services Workers of America and the trustee of the union’s health care plan. Money paid into the plan was supposed to be used for health care benefits exclusively to its participants. Romero appointed a trustee who had no prior experience with unions and actively misled the third-party administrators of the health plan into making improper payments, according to officials at the Department of Justice.
DOJ officials said Thursday that Romero appointed his son the secretary and treasurer of the union, and his ex-wife, Evelyn Romero, 71, the union’s president and trustee while he served a two-year federal prison sentence related to making false statements to federal officials made as president of a different labor union. Romero’s son, ex-wife, and daughter, Danae Romero, 42, of Loma Linda, pleaded guilty.
Romero was also convicted of filing a false financial report with the U.S. Department of Labor in which he concealed the existence of more than $100,000 in union receipts and disbursements that he held in a secret bank account and from which he made regular payments to his mistress.
Evidence that Romero had attempted to intimidate witnesses who testified against him at trial prompted U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips to order Romero into custody immediately following the guilty verdict. Judge Phillips scheduled an April 27 sentencing hearing, at which time Romero will face a statutory maximum sentence of 130 years in federal prison.