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Ex-L.A. County union president to plead guilty to fraud, tax charges

The SEIU's Alejandro Stephens is accused of taking more than $50,000 in fees through bogus consulting contracts, documents say.

August 28, 2009|Paul Pringle

The former president of the union that represents Los Angeles County government workers has agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud and tax charges in connection with an alleged scheme to collect illicit consulting payments from a labor-related nonprofit, officials said Thursday.

Alejandro Stephens, a longtime leader of the Service Employees International Union local, signed an agreement to plead guilty to one count of filing a false income tax return and two counts of mail fraud, the U.S. attorney's office said.

He is accused of pocketing more than $50,000 in fees from the Voter Improvement Program through bogus consulting contracts, court documents say. The nonprofit was formed in the 1990s by the late Miguel Contreras, who was head of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

The court documents refer to the nonprofit's founder only by the initials M.C. They allege that M.C. entered into an arrangement with Stephens to pay the fees to him and four associates in 2004 and 2005. The bulk of the money paid to the associates was funneled to Stephens, the documents say.

Stephens, 65, and his attorney could not be reached for comment late Thursday. Each fraud count against Stephens carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. The tax charge is punishable by up to three years in prison. Stephens is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 15.

Earlier this month, it was learned that federal authorities have been investigating whether Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and former Board of Education member David Tokofsky received improper consultant payments from the Voter Improvement Program, sources familiar with the probe said. No charges have been brought against Huizar or Tokofsky. The payments under scrutiny were made in 2003 and 2004, sources said.

Stephens lost his union presidency in 2007 when his SEIU chapter, Local 660, merged with several others.

The county later fired him from his job, alleging he had refused to return to work after a lengthy leave.

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paul.pringle@latimes.com

Times staff writer Richard Winton also contributed to this report.

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