The small Anchorage chapter of a major union for stagehands lost several years' worth of dues when an official embezzled from it for more than three years, federal prosecutors say.
Ann C. Reddig, 62, is charged with embezzlement and forgery, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court last week.
A statement on the charges said Reddig was secretary-treasurer of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees' Local Unit 918 in Anchorage from March 2007 to September 2014.
Starting in January 2010 and continuing until she left that position, prosecutors said in court documents, Reddig "embezzled, stole, and unlawfully and willfully abstracted and converted to her own use, or the use of another" more than $193,000 of the union's funds.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas Walker, who is handling the case, declined to discuss it in detail this week. A spokeswoman for the Anchorage U.S. attorney's office said Reddig was issued a summons to appear in court June 26.
Eric Lizer, Local Unit 918's business agent, said Reddig has been a well-known stage performer in Alaska since the 1970s. She last appeared in Juneau-based Perseverance Theatre's 2014-15 production of "A Christmas Carol."
Losing the funds Reddig stands accused of embezzling, he said, was a severe blow to a union with about 50 members that takes in about $45,000 a year.
"That dollar amount that is stated in the charges is like five, six years of our entire income," Lizer said. "It's a significant amount of money, in comparison to the size of the organization."
Lizer said Reddig's time as secretary-treasurer overlapped with a boom in union membership and dues during Alaska's now-rescinded film tax credit, which led to several film productions in the state from 2009 to 2015. The highest-profile project among them, receiving $9.6 million in state funds, was "Big Miracle" – a 2012 Drew Barrymore feature film retelling the 1988 effort to rescue gray whales stranded in ice near Barrow.
"It went up to 85 full-fledged, card-carrying members," Lizer said. "We had 200 people under our jurisdiction on 'Big Miracle.' "
The case came to light in 2014, Lizer said, when a bank's fraud unit contacted the local union. The union conducted an internal investigation and also alerted the federal Labor Department, which conducted its own investigation.
"We internally removed Ann from office and then also from membership," Lizer said. "After we discovered it, we had an audit done."
Lizer said the federal investigator found that Reddig had used "hundreds" of electronic transfers, forged checks and cash withdrawals to take money from the union, always in small amounts to avoid detection.
The federal investigation ended about 18 months ago but only recently led to charges due to caseload delays. In the meantime, Lizer said, Local 918 has paid all its creditors after some were left unpaid due to the embezzlement — although it got "really far behind" on paying its rent in the process.
"We're caught up so we're solvent again, which is fantastic," Lizer said. "We are very enthused that the union is finally going to get some closure on this issue."