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Writers Guild seeks police probe of former employee

May 10, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

The union representing Hollywood TV and film writers has formally asked Los Angeles police to investigate a former employee who it alleges embezzled union funds.

A report filed Monday by the Writers Guild of America, West, alleges that Michelle Trinh, a former assistant administrator in its foreign levies department, misappropriated $17,000 in union funds by issuing unauthorized checks to the sister of her boyfriend.

The filing of a police report does not mean Trinh has been charged with a crime. Investigators will look at the allegations and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Trinh, whose responsibilities included disbursing funds and researching names in a member database, could not be reached for comment.

Guild officials have declined to comment on the report or the circumstances of Trinh's recent departure.

Last week, guild officials acknowledged that an internal investigation found evidence of missing funds and that the matter was being turned over to authorities.

Trinh, 28, worked in the department that has come under growing scrutiny over its handling of fees levied by foreign governments to compensate writers for the reuse of their work.

Over the years, the guild has amassed a pool of foreign levy funds totaling $20 million that it has failed to distribute. That has fueled criticism that the guild is improperly holding on to money that belongs to hundreds of writers or their heirs.

Guild officials have dismissed allegations that they are deliberately holding on to the funds, citing such problems as scant information provided by foreign collection societies and the difficulty of tracking down authors who aren't union members.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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