Ex-adviser for UPW sentenced to 75 days
A former United Public Workers investment adviser will spend 75 days in federal prison for illegally accepting fees from an investment that lost the union $1.1 million.
After his release from prison, Albert Anthony Hewitt will be confined to his home for half a year under terms of a year's supervised release. He will have to pay the UPW $17,500 in restitution.
Under federal court sentencing guidelines, U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway could have sent Hewitt to prison for eight to 14 months.
Hewitt's lawyer, Birney Bervar, suggested Mollway sentence his client to probation because he did not know it was illegal to accept the fees.
Mollway said yesterday that she accepts Hewitt's claim of ignorance, but she said his action warrants some amount of prison time.
"Even if he didn't know, he did commit the crime," Mollway said.
At Hewitt's urging, then-UPW State Director Gary Rodrigues invested money from the union's Mutual Aid Fund in Best Rescue, a Florida-based company that was trying to win approval for a product that would have given people another means of getting out of high-rise buildings in emergencies.
UPW's Mutual Aid Fund is a voluntary contribution plan that provided hospitalization and other benefits for union members and their dependents. The fund is subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which prohibits the taking of fees, commissions or kickbacks.
Hewitt accepted $55,000 from Best Rescue in 1998 and 1999, but he said he did not know the UPW Mutual Aid Fund was subject to ERISA.
"I was stupid. I should have done due diligence. I trusted what I was told," Hewitt said.
UPW lost its investment when Best Rescue failed to win government approval for its product.
The union later sued Hewitt for fraud and Rodrigues for breach of fiduciary duties.
Hewitt said he invested and lost his own money in Best Rescue because he believed in its product.
Bervar said his client has been paying money back to UPW.