Former union president gets fine, probation for stealing from local

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For three years, John Vetterly Jr. tapped the coffers of the union he led to cover meals, cable TV bills and cell phone costs for his family.

For the next five years, he’ll be paying it back and then some, under the eye of federal probation officers, following his sentencing on a federal embezzlement charge Wednesday.

“I’‍m sorry,” Vetterly, 53, of Avalon told U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak. Neither he nor his defense counsel offered a rebuttal to assistant U.S. attorney Mary McKeen Houghton’s contention that his crime was the product of “pure greed.”

While president of Utility Workers of America Local 475, Vetterly took $26,605 from its accounts.

“All of that money is dues money,” Judge Hornak said. “It came right out of the paychecks of the men and women in the labor union. ... You were elected [president] by those very same dues-paying members.”

In addition to repayment of the amount embezzled, plus interest, Judge Hornak tacked on a $2,660 fine. He ordered Vetterly to serve the first nine months of his five-year probation term on house arrest. The judge barred Vetterly from serving as an officer or consultant to a union for 13 years, a duration set by federal law.

Vetterly plans to continue to work in gas line maintenance for Columbia Gas, according to his attorney, Michael Healey. Judge Hornak ordered Vetterly wear an electronic monitoring anklet, but if that creates a risk of explosion on gas leak sites, he can ask the court to consider a different monitoring method.

Vetterly, president of the local from 2006 through 2008, won election to Avalon council last year. Officials were unavailable for comment on his status.

Another former official of the union, John Baranski, 54, of Boardman, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to involvement in the thefts. He was accused of taking $4,246 from the union.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published July 16, 2014 12:00 AM

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