NEW YORK -- Federal prosecutors have filed wire fraud charges against the president of a union representing law enforcement for three New York City agencies, and an obstruction charge against the treasurer.
On Monday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the charges against Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association President Kenneth Wynder Jr., 56, of Stroudsburg, Pa., and the union's treasurer, Steven Whittick, 50, of Kingston.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed Monday, Wynder, a former New York State Trooper, defrauded the union retirement annuity fund and individual members' retirement accounts starting in at least 2012, and took more than $500,000 between 2014-2019. Prosecutors charge that Wynder, the fund administrator and a trustee of the annuity fund's board of directors, made hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent transfers from the annuity fund to LEEBA's operating account, and then took money by "unauthorized and excessive checks to himself, cash withdrawals for himself."
In some cases, prosecutors said, Wynder's withdrawals wiped out the entire balances of individual members' accounts.
Prosecutors say Wynder used the money to pay personal expenses, including expenses related to a second home, a new vehicle, clothing and travel expenses.
The union represents members of the New York City DEP police, the city Department of Sanitation Enforcement and the city Department of Transportation.
Prosecutors say Wynder covered his tracks by lying to the annuity find's third-party administrator, by making false and misleading statements to members, and by failing to file mandatory reports and financial disclosures in a timely manner.
Prosecutors say that between 2017-2019, after learning about the federal investigation, Whittick repeatedly lied to investigators, despite his own involvement with some of the financial improprieties. The criminal complaint charges that, for example, on two occasions in early 2018 Whittick withdrew $16,000 in cash from a LEEBA bank account, then on each occasion deposited $15,000 into Wynder's personal bank account and $1,000 into his own.
Prosecutors said that after investigators executed a search warrant at the union's office in September 2019, Whittick made false statements to investigators about withdrawals from assorted LEEBA accounts.
According to the LEEBA website, Wynder spent 13 years as a New York State Trooper before retiring with a disability pension, and then worked part-time for a decade 'in the security field as a supervisor." He founded the union in 2002 "with the goal of uniting law enforcement and security employees under one strong employee association, an association dedicated to its members and not the interests of a national union," the site says.
After appearances on Monday in Manhattan federal court, Wynder and Whittick were each released on $250,000 personal recognizance bond, with travel restrictions. Wynder was ordered to surrender two guns he owns, and Whittick to surrender two city-owned guns. They were barred from contact with other LEEBA employees or board members unless lawyers are present, and they may not exercise authority over LEEBA accounts or funds.
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