FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The former head of the Broward Teacher’s Union has pled not guilty to nearly two dozen charges including grand theft and racketeering.
Pat Santeramo was not in the courtroom when his case was called; his lawyer entered the plea on his behalf.
Santeramo, 64, faces a total of 20 charges including: one count of racketeering, six counts of grand theft, five counts of campaign contributions violations, and several others.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, after his election as president of the BTU in November 2001, Santeramo “began using the BTU as his artifice to organize his scheme to defraud the union and its members.”
“Santeramo, while using his unilateral control of the union’s business to include contracting, vendor approval, payment authorization and distribution of union assets, manipulated the union’s business, accounting and financial operations for his own benefit,” the arrest affidavit said.
According to the SAO, from 2001 to 2012, Santeramo “was able to systematically divert approximately $165,500 in union funds to himself through an invoice-kickback scheme with a construction company.”
The SAO said in one of the 43 instances of racketeering discovered by their investigation; Santeramo had the construction company bill the union $89,295 for repairing the building’s elevators.
The company then gave $20,000 of the union’s payment back to Santeramo in cash, according to the SAO.
The state attorney’s office also said Santeramo made a series of illegal campaign contributions by having 25 people, including union members, make donations to a variety of candidate and then would reimburse the people form union funds for their contribution.
Santeramo has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.