Treasurer of law enforcement union pleads guilty to tax evasion and lying to federal officers

 

Date: July 16, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Audrey Strauss, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Steven Whittick, the former treasurer of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association ("LEEBA") and an officer with the New York City (the "City") Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP"), pled guilty today before United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel, to charges of conspiring to evade more than $250,000 in federal taxes, including payroll taxes owed by LEEBA and its employees, and his own personal income taxes. Whittick also pled guilty to lying to federal officers during the course of the investigation in this case. LEEBA is a labor union that represents certain law enforcement officers employed by the City, including officers from DEP, the City Department of Sanitation, and the City Department of Transportation.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: "Steven Whittick today pled guilty to charges that reflect a betrayal of his duties as a law enforcement officer, his legal obligations as a union official, and his responsibilities as a taxpayer. As a police officer, Whittick swore to uphold the law, not to obstruct it. As a union official, he betrayed the rank-and-file membership by paying himself off the books. As a taxpayer, Whittick evaded his legal obligation to pay what was owed. Now, Steven Whittick awaits sentencing for his crimes."

According to the Indictment and the underlying complaints filed in this case, as well as other publicly available information and prior court filings, and recent court proceedings:

Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association

LEEBA is a labor union that has acted as the collective bargaining representative principally for law enforce­ment personnel at various City agencies, and has entered into agreements on behalf of those law enforcement employees, including agreements for insurance and retirement benefits. The City agencies whose employees LEEBA represented included, at various times, DEP, the Department of Sanitation, and the Department of Transportation.

Whittick

Whittick is a DEP police officer, the former treasurer of LEEBA, and a member of the board of directors of LEEBA and the boards of trustees of the LEEBA Annuity Fund and the LEEBA Welfare Fund. As LEEBA's treasurer, Whittick had responsibility for LEEBA's financial matters and accounts, including arranging for LEEBA to pay its payroll through an outside payroll processing firm (the "Payroll Processor") starting in 2016. Whittick also held signatory authority over LEEBA's main operating bank account.

The Tax Evasion Conspiracy

As charged in Count Two of the Indictment, to which Whittick pled guilty today, from at least in or about 2015 through 2019, Whittick participated in a conspiracy with Kenneth Wynder Jr.,[1] the president of LEEBA, to cause LEEBA to make payments to Whittick and Wynder, by check and in cash, and to conceal such payments from the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). Whittick further conspired to ensure that such payments were made outside of LEEBA's Payroll Processor. He then concealed these payments from the IRS – including off-the-books payments to himself of more than $100,000 and off-the-books payments to Wynder of more than $400,000 – in order to evade his own personal income taxes and the personal income taxes of Wynder, and to evade the payroll taxes that were owed by LEEBA and certain LEEBA employees.

Whittick's False Statements to Federal Agents

In or about October 2019, while serving as LEEBA's Treasurer and after learning of a federal investigation into LEEBA's finances – including the investigation of an alleged embezzlement scheme that ultimately resulted in wire fraud charges against Wynder – Whittick repeatedly lied to federal agents in an effort to obstruct that investigation. Whittick did so despite personal involvement in some of the financial improprieties with which Wynder is charged. For example, as alleged, on at least two occasions, on or about February 1, 2018, and March 30, 2018, Whittick withdrew $16,000 in cash from a LEEBA bank account, and on each occasion deposited $15,000 cash into Wynder's personal bank account and $1,000 cash into Whittick's own personal bank account.

After the FBI executed a search warrant of LEEBA's offices in September 2019, Whittick attempted to obstruct and to influence the ongoing federal investigation by making, in two different interviews with law enforcement agents, false statements about, among other subjects, cash withdrawals he made from LEEBA's bank accounts, unauthorized withdrawals from LEEBA's Annuity Fund and from the individual retirement accounts of Fund participants, and LEEBA's payment for certain travel and entertainment expenses for union officers, including Whittick and Wynder.

Whittick, of Kingston, New York, pled guilty today to: (1) one count of conspiracy to evade personal and payroll taxes for the tax years 2015 through 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019; and (2) one count of lying to federal investigators. Each of those charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, and an order of restitution. Whittick is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Castel on November 17, 2021, at 11:00 a.m.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of IRS-Criminal Investigation, the FBI, and the Department of Labor Office of Labor Managements Standards. Ms. Strauss also thanked the New York City Comptroller's Office and the New York City Department of Investigation for their assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office's Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Raymond Lewis and Eli J. Mark are in charge of the prosecution.

[1] Wynder is charged in six counts of the same Indictment in which Whittick was charged. The charges against Wynder contained in the Indictment are accusations only. Wynder remains presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.