Former AFGE Border Patrol Council President Indicted

By on August 21, 2012 in Current Events with 23 Comments

Former President T.J. Bonner of the National Border Patrol Council, a major component of the American federation of Government Employees, was indicted August 16 on 13 criminal charges.  This follows a number of indictments and convictions against AFGE officials.  These charges related to actions allegedly taken by him while serving as President.  If you have not read a Federal criminal indictment (file follows at the end of this article), it’s certainly worth the read.  In this case, the indictment details the alleged actions by the former union president while still both the union president and a border patrol officer. As you read this, remember that Mr. Bonner is innocent of these charges unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The indictment point out that Bonner was a full time union representative for the 22 years prior to his Federal retirement in May of 2010.  That means the Border Patrol paid him as an agent but he didn’t spend any of his time on the job. One should really read the indictment (provided above) to get an idea of the apparent complete authority such leaders have to spend members’ money.  Money allegedly spent on family members and in this case, allegedly a “mistress”.  BTW, that’s not a term you hear every day in 2012 America.

On its website, the National Border Patrol Council responded to this indictment.  (see below)

“National Border Patrol Council Responds to the Indictment of Former NBC President T.J. Bonner

Friday, 17 August 2012

On August 16, 2012, T.J. Bonner, the former president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego, California. According to the press release and indictment, the charges against Bonner include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and a scheme to defraud the members of the NBPC.

In April 2010, the NBPC executive committee members first learned about an official investigation related to travel vouchers submitted by Bonner. In response, the committee initiated an investigation into the matter. Shortly thereafter, the Committee determined there was sufficient reason to believe Bonner may have acted inappropriately and asked Bonner to step aside while the matter was being investigated by the grand jury. Bonner refused and said the committee did not have the authority to remove him from his elected position.

The NBPC cooperated from the beginning of this investigation and knew it was necessary to take proactive measures to protect NBPC funds, such as: requesting multiple audits of the NBPC financial records; revising internal policies; eliminating questionable sections of the policies (e.g. gifts for spouses and direct-billed credit cards); adding additional layers of review for all expense vouchers; prohibiting a committee member from approving his/her own personal expense voucher; requiring advance approval from the executive committee for travel that was expected to exceed $500.00; and finally, appointing a new Secretary/Treasurer.

The NBPC executive committee also requested the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to suspend Bonner from his position while the matter was being investigated. Yet, due to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation taking an extended period of time, AFGE was hesitant to intervene and remove Bonner from his elected position so close to the end of his term without any charges being filed. During this entire time, Bonner refused to cooperate with the executive committee.  He threatened committee members with civil litigation and filed charges with AFGE against the majority of the executive committee, who were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing after the matter was investigated by AFGE.

In June 2010, a meeting was held with the 16 local presidents and Bonner, and the information that was available to the executive committee at that time was discussed. Unfortunately, any further release of information could have jeopardized the criminal investigation or may have led to further charges against the Council and committee members.  Clearly, this is a black eye for the NBPC, and the executive committee apologizes to all of our members for not being able to discuss this matter earlier due to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation.

In closing, we are pleased that the legal process is finally moving forward. The NBPC is confident that justice will be served and hopes to recover any funds misappropriated by Bonner.  We now must look to the future and tackle important issues facing all of our members.  The current executive committee is dedicated to continuing to make our Union one of the strongest in the federal government.”  (My Emphasis)

As the first highlighted portion indicates, the Council was rightly concerned about the allegations and you can draw your own conclusions about their view of the help they got from AFGE National.

As the second highlighted portion clearly says, this is a black eye for the Council.  One should remember, in all of this, that the U.S. Border Patrol has one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in government.  The employees deserve the very best and most honest representatives they can get.  I’m sure the Council believes that as well.  Over the years, I’ve conducted a number of classes both for and including Border Patrol managers and came to understand that they and their agents make many personal sacrifices and face much danger on our behalf.

Numerous Other AFGE Officials Faced Charges in Last Two Years

This case is not an isolated incident.  The Labor Department reported the following on its website:

On July 17, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, James Charleston, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2107 (located in North Chicago, Ill.), Jacquelyn Pugh-Rodgers, former Vice President, and Mary Craigen, former Secretary-Treasurer, were each charged in a five-count indictment with one count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 on a federal enclave, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 661, and two counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341.  The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office. 

On May 14, 2012, in the Pennington County South Dakota District Court, William Bilger, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3365 (located in Rapid City, S.D.), pled guilty to petty  theft greater than $400 and less than $1,000.  Bilger was subsequently sentenced on the same date to pay restitution in the amount of $2,137 within one year, to obey all laws, and to pay grand jury costs.  The plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On April 10, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Vicki Guynn, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1612 (located in Springfield, Mo.), was sentenced to four months of home confinement and three years of probation.  On December 15, 2011, Guynn pled guilty to a one-count information charging her with wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343, in connection with an embezzlement of $16,081.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General.

On February 20, 2012, in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division for the State of North Carolina, County of Durham, Terry L. Wagner, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2923 (located in Durham, N.C.), was indicted for embezzlement totaling between $7,312 and $7,845.  The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

On February 1, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Kelly Dull, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2904 (located in Kansas City, Mo.), pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $32,118.66, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.  The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Kansas City Resident Investigator Office.

On January 20, 2012, in the State of Louisiana, 26th Judicial District, Parish of Bossier, John Wayne Walker, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2000 (located in Shreveport, La.), was sentenced  for felony theft.  Walker’s sentence was deferred pursuant to Article 893 for five years.  He has also been placed on active probation for five years with the following special conditions: (1) comply with Article 893; (2) make restitution of $16,057.75 over probation period; (3) pay $75 per month for supervision fees; and (4) pay a fine of $500 and cost over probation.  On January 20, 2012, Walker pled guilty to one count of felony theft of $16,057.75 in union funds, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:67.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.

On December 12, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Federck C. Petro, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2094 (located in New York, N.Y.), was charged in a criminal complaint with embezzling $112,477 in union funds in a federal enclave, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 661.  The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS New York District Office.

On November 16, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Ann Kelly, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2814 (located in Council Bluffs, Iowa), was sentenced to six months home confinement and three years probation.  Kelly was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and a $100 special assessment.  She paid $33,296.28 in restitution prior to sentencing.  On August 11, 2011, Kelly pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.

On October 24, 2011, in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Victor Davis, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3283 (located in Cleveland, Ohio), was indicted on one count of theft in excess of $500 but less than $5,000.  The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

On March 17, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, an information was filed against Richard Barnes, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 517 (located in Atlanta, Ga.), charging him with theft by deception totaling $14,024 under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Section 16-8-3(a), as assimilated under Title 18, United States Code, Section 13.  The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

So What Should Come of This?

Apparently the Labor department is doing its job, what about AFGE?  The idea that a union official at any level could use hard-earned dues money for anything but getting better working conditions should appall union leaders.   I hope AFGE understands that its criticisms of Agency leaders for the way they spend money lacks credibility in light of the above.  It may not, as no mention of any of this appears in AFGE’s press releases.  Maybe these charges are part of the great right wing conspiracy to undermine the union?  Sounds like they’re doing a good job of that themselves without outside help?

So what is the takeaway lesson from this sad affair and the others cited.  Whether Mr. Bonner or the others are guilty or innocent of a specific crime, if the facts cited are true in all these cases, shouldn’t AFGE have been doing a much better job of auditing the union to insure fiscal integrity and adherence to ethical standards?  Was AFGE national asleep at that switch? 

One cannot help but ask what specific steps are being taken by AFGE to ensure that its other councils, districts and locals are safeguarding dues and putting them to representing employees, the purpose for which they were intended.  A number of these union leaders are relatively low paid employees for whom apparently uncontrolled access to union funds may be very tempting. 

This matter also raises the question of whether federal employee unions should be professional organizations and their leaders not be Federal employees at the same time.  I understand that one cannot hold an elected position in AFGE without being a bargaining unit employee of a Federal Agency or retired from Federal service.  If I’m wrong about that, please correct me.  It also seriously begs the question of whether these folks can be trusted with official time i.e., taxpayers money.

Any opinion expressed in this article is mine alone.  Let me repeat that, in all of this, Mr. Bonner and others indicted but not convicted are innocent of these charges unless proven guilty in a court of law.

US v. Bonner

© 2016 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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  1. Bueford says:

    I have to ask why the coincidental timing of the indictment happening on the afternoon of the swearing in of the new national officers of AFGE. The election was held at the national convention the day before. I know AFGE National has a lot of pull- was this timing negotiated with the DOL/OLMS and the US attorneys involved in the case? There is also the question of whether the treatment of the case by AFGE national and a possible delay of the indictment had any influence on the national election. The concern may have been that filing the indictment before the national election may have had an effect on the outcome. As part of a democratic process maybe it should have. According to this video there was bad blood between then District 12 NVP Eugene Hudson and TJ Bonner from the 2009 convention. The indictment was filed the afternoon Hudson was sworn in as the new national secretary treasurer. I have seen some ugly coalitions around election time, and have heard a lot of unkept promises made. There is an ugly truth about how people get elected. The timing of the action from the joint investigation seems extremely suspect.

  2. cfederoff says:

    Union leaders’ criticism of agency profligacy lacks credibility because some leaders are cheats?  Then why do we accept Congress’ assessment of agencies, since some Congressmen act immorally?  Or the media’s criticism of unions, since some reporters make up sources? Every human organization has some bad apples.  But we don’t call for the end of all local government just because some town administrator embezzled taxpayer funds, and we don’t call for the elimination of all investment banks just because some knowingly sold junk securities.  Instead, we regulate–and union funds are the most highly regulated funds in this country.  There is no Dept of Labor OLMS equivalent for private industry.  What is the likelihood that a CEO would be indicted for misusing his business account when flying to see his mistress?  And AFGE’s responsibility?  Mr. Gilson thinks hierarchically, top-down.  But AFGE is a democratic organization, and power flows from bottom to top.  I’ve been an AFGE Bargaining Council President, and I had no power to oversee the internal affairs of the 36 Locals in my Council.  But their leaders had full authority to review and audit my expense vouchers, as well as the Council’s books.  I am not defending thieves or cheats.  But I am defending unions, which can bring democracy to the work place.  But like any democracy, we get the leadership we deserve.  If you don’t like your Union leadership, I encourage you to join your Union, become active, and be responsible for making your workplace, and our government, better.

    • maxie5000 says:

      @cfederoff : I did join a Union, I did become active, I even became an officer, then VP, only to find my Union was rotten to the core.  We were forced to share a president with a hospital to even get in the Union.  Once in, every term we had a president was either embezzeling money, abusing official time, refusing needed training because of personal grudges, or (even though they told the both the district and national vice president they were allowing us to handle our own business) they would go behind my back and sign supplemental agreements detrimental to my employees.  By that time I had 15 years doing union activities (5 being the VP because our own VP was tanking cases and I was asked to replace her in the middle of her term), trying to fight the good fight.  When I tried to separate my clinic (185 members) and form my own Union, with a petition from both members, and 200 non members (who signed promising to join only if we could separate) I was told by our national vp, and our district president, that our clinic was too small to get it’s own union.  I climbed the ladder and got nowhere.  I was called by the national VP, telling me to stop emailing John Gage.  After going to the national convention, seeing VA clinics with only 50 employees WITH THEIR OWN UNION, I confronted them.  I was told that the national vp nor the district president wanted to take the 185 members away from the hospital we were attached to, even at the expense of not recruiting 200 guaranteed new members. Then election time came.  They ran our election 5 times, 4 of which I won, but I was eventually ousted Al Gore style. People didn’t get ballots, people didn’t get a vote, and they refused to run it over, and AFGE lost mass amounts of members and respect from people in our clinic.  So while I agree people should get involved…..I wouldn’t suggest that getting involved with union will solve the problems of a union corruption, or that the corruption starts at the bottom.  I have found the corruption starts at the top an is emmulated at the bottom, regardless if it is administration or union.

  3. steve5656546346 says:

    And this only shows those where actual legal action was taken:  we had a President who seems to have gotten away with it; but the amounts of money were less.

  4. Flynnj says:

    Bob, I think you ran out of your shoes. Before you found Bonner guilty in print  could  you have at least waited for a trial verdict. Also does the saw cut both ways?  When are you going to run a similar expos’e on corrupt personnel and LR officers?

    • Author says:

      I was careful to say that Mr. Bonner was innocent until proven guilty as is the right of all of us apparently but me.  Next time read the article.

  5. Pinecone says:

    AFGE puts Local’s into receivership when they get word that there might be something hinkey going on with union funds. In receivership, the National handles the Local’s funds, paying bills and accounting for current dues until such time as a complete investigation/audit is completed. If there is wrong doing, it is dealt with appropriately. If not, the Local is restored. That was not addressed in the article. But, that would have created a more balanced report. Mr. Gilson can’t bring himself to do that. 

    • Author says:

      According to the NBPC, apparently not.  If their press release can be believed, they went to AFGE and didn’t get much help.

  6. Hoffa /CO Witness Protection says:

    What pointed the feds to get into this?  Did he piss off the wrong people, in high places?  Somewhere there is a snitch and a plea bargain, to get at him.  Does he play bocce ball?  The prison teams are always looking for new players.

  7. Guestt says:

    So what’s new? My union steward was a gossip and used her position to get involved in matters that did not have anything to do with employee rights.  The only reason she took that position is so that she can help her fellow thugs.

  8. Former Labor Guy says:

    Just last month in Cleveland, we had a former long-time AFGE local president convicted of felony conversion of government funds.  He continued claiming official time after losing his local’s election.  His first-line supervisor never knew he’d lost and kept certifying his claim for official time (yet more evidence of out-of-control official time abuse).  He’s still facing another criminal trial for ripping off his union local.  He’s the 7th AFGE local president that we’ve had convicted of crimes in the past 15 years.

    • worker says:

       Like management people do nothing wrong?  Get serious.

      • Former Labor Guy says:

        I am serious.  I’ll agree that we have plenty of managers who do wrong things but the things that they do wrong are rarely criminal.  Indeed, I don’t think we’ve ever had an agency manager arrested, indicted, or convicted of any criminal actions.  Until I saw the list of criminal offenses and convictions in this article, I’d have agreed that this was probably random, bad apples in the AFGE ranks… now, however, this is starting to look more like an AFGE cultural corruption problem.  I think AFGE needs to get serious.

        • Fed Peasant says:

          Sometimes, the employees file complaints & charges agaainst AFGE.  I see it more & more. 

        • afgepresident says:

          Perhaps I missed something. The supervisor certified the official time for the union guy….., even AFTER he lost the election???? I dunno, but I would consider that time card fraud by the certifying official. What do you mean he never knew he lost? He’s the certifying official for crying out loud, it’s his JOB to know.
           I expect the union bashing, when appropriate. But let’s not give moron’s that get promoted to management a pass at the same time.

      • maxie5000 says:

        @Former Labor guy : Ohio has always been infested with bad AFGE presidents/officials, and as a 15year Union rep (2 of them replacing a bad egg, which by the way they put back into power).  I used to be a tried and true Union person, but this bunch, AFGE as it were is a whole different animal.  They embezzel, fix elections, get in bed with management until they are sued for failure to represent, this is just one more thing that makes it look like Unions are a bunch of crooks.  I know not all unions are this way but AFGE either needs to replace the powers that be or be scrapped.  People don’t want to join because
        @worker : Management is just as crooked, and HR people are at the crux of all the b.s.  When did HR change from being a hiring dept. to the dept you get orders from (especially in VA) to meet out discipline, and dispense witch hunts?  Oh well….just further gives credence to how the govt. system is being screwed around even by people who are supposed to help you.

    • Me says:

      It started as a cause, became a business, and is now a racket. 

    • fed employee says:

      The person referred to here is Victor Davis, who was mentioned in the article. 

  9. Old Fed says:

    If/when this guy is convicted, and the evidence is substantial that he will be, they are going to use the forfeiture statutes to take his house and any other property he owns in reimbursement for the false claims. There is no provision that I’m aware of which would enable the government to stop his pension, even while in prison. I know there was a bill in Congress to provide for this sort of situation, but it hasn’t passed as far as I know. His wife will collect his pension while he’s in prison, I assume.

  10. HRGuy71 says:

    Unfortunately, federal employee unions often represent a small slice of those they represent. Membership is low and there is usually little interest in the union. The ones that are interested often have a very narrow agenda ranging from trying to keep from getting fired to getting better perks and working less. Sometimes good people rise in the leadership ranks at the local level but often not.

    The results are obvious. Some who think they are deserving of more money, perks, etc. sometimes take what they think they can get away with. 

    The federal government needs a better system. The current system doesn’t work other than it guarantees a union, once elected, will stay there regardless of employee interest. If all represented employees had to pay dues, and there were mandatory elections to determine continued interest, Uncle Sam would be much more efficient, spend less on frivolous complaints, and employees would have better representation if they decide they need it.

    • worker says:

      Figured an HR guy would respond like this.  I found most HR guys to be very protective of the management people who were incompetent rather than getting to the truth of a situation.  These people have no interest in solving problems, but rather protecting the incompetent managers.  

  11. joebiteeme says:

    Hopefully he’ll still get to keep the money and his pension. He is a Fed you know