Government, Human Resources, and Law

Judge sentences ex-union leader to prison

March 11, 2019
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DETROIT — A labor leader who liked to gamble at a casino has been sentenced to federal prison for embezzling from his union.

Mervin Hawk will serve 30 months for taking $300,000 from AFSCME Local 1640.

Authorities said Hawk actually stole $630,000, but he returned a portion before the scheme was discovered.

"I'm sorry," Hawk told a judge. "I let a lot of folks down. I needed help. I didn't know how to ask for help."

Hawk, 59, was president of Local 1640 of AFSCME, which stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Investigators said he diverted member dues to two bank accounts that he created in the union's name.

AFSCME Council 25 became suspicious when Local 1640 failed to meet certain financial commitments. Hawk was ousted in 2015.

"Every dollar of union dues that Hawk stole is a dollar that should have gone to serve the interests of the union's membership," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal said.

Hawk's attorney asked for home detention.

Natasha Webster said she doubts the federal prison system can handle Hawk's diabetes-related health problems, but U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is capable.

Drain said cases like Hawk's fuel a perception that unions are corrupt.

"Unions serve a very important function in society," the judge said. "As a union president, you disappointed a lot of people."

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