FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The trial for Pat Santeramo, the former Broward Teachers Union President accused of fraud and racketeering, began Wednesday.
The 68 year old could face the rest of his life in prison if convicted of one count of racketeering, one count of conspiracy, multiple counts of grand theft, money laundering and organized fraud.
He is accused of stealing roughly $300,000 from the teachers union.
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.”
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.
According to the SAO, Santeramo also improperly collected more than $121, 848 in false sick and vacation time.
A BTU audit found that under Santeramo’s leadership, the union spent nearly $4 million in reserve fund over multiple years on political campaigns, rallies, and other areas. Additionally, the BTU didn’t pass along increases in state and national union dues to members.
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’s lawyer said Santeramo is not guilty of the charges and that the charges are part of a bigger battle against labor.