PORTLAND, Maine — A former union official at Bath Iron Works was sentenced Monday in federal court to 18 months in prison and $280,865 in restitution after pleading guilty to embezzling that amount from Local S6 of the Machinists Union, the shipyard’s largest union.
Ryan Jones, 35, of Biddeford told U.S. District Court Justice George Z. Singal on Monday that he was sorry for his actions and offered his “deepest sympathies.”
“I’ve seen the darkest days I hope to see in my life,” he said, in part. “I’ve lied to everybody in my life for a long time. I’m working on being an honest man today. I’ve committed myself to a program that has helped reinstill spiritual principles in my life.”
Jones pleaded guilty Sept. 6, 2017, to a single count of embezzlement of union funds between May 2012 and November 2016. His attorney, Richard S. Berne, told the court that Jones used the money to help feed his partner’s opioid addiction.
Jones, who had worked at BIW since he was 19, served as shop steward before being elected secretary-treasurer of Local S6 in 2009. He held that position until he lost re-election in fall 2016 but stayed in the position until the end of the year.
In March 2017, he was confronted about the embezzlement by newly elected union officials.
In 2011, Jones married a woman Berne described as an “addict,” and in 2012, Jones began stealing union funds “to maintain a lifestyle created by their interdependence on partying, drugs, and alcohol.”
“How much of Ryan’s participation was fueled by the terrible things he was doing at work to mask his crime is impossible to determine, but his eventual spiral from alcohol and marijuana abuse to alcohol abuse and cocaine addiction in 2015 sealed his fate,” Berne wrote in a Feb. 7 memo.
Jones continued to work at BIW and began attending Narcotics Anonymous. According to his attorney, as of Friday, he had been “clean and sober” for nine months.
But Berne said Jones was unable to help his wife get clean and began obtaining opioids any way possible — and eventually began stealing from the union.
Jones’ father, Scott Jones, told Singal on Monday that he has worked at BIW for 40 years and that his sons worked their throughout their adult lives. He spoke of “shock, pain and humiliation” upon learning of his son’s crimes.
Scott Jones said the family understands the “bitterness and disappointment” of union members, adding that “A healthy Ryan would never have committed the crime.”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry, who prosecuted the case, said Jones stole “systematically” for a significant period of time, and concocted an elaborate scheme to cover his tracks.
“Nearly 200 times — 199 times, over approximately four-and-a-half years — Ryan Jones stole from the brothers and sisters of his union,” Perry said. “He stole $280,865. … On a weekly basis, he’s stealing over $1,000 a week.”
Perry said Jones generated fraudulent bank statements showing the balance but not his fraudulent activity.
“It reflects on the character of the person,” Perry said. “He’s literally stealing from his family members, who are members of the union. Ironically, if he wants to fight for his job back, the very people he stole from are required to stand up for him.”
In announcing his sentence, Singal described the case as “tragic” and “very sad” and expressed sympathy for Jones’ parents, “who have to attend a proceeding in which their offspring has to stand in front of a judge as a convicted felon. I can’t imagine the anguish going on in your hearts, and I give you my sympathy.”
He said it’s unlikely that those who are not members of such a union could understand the betrayal by a union member working side by side with others.
He said he’s not convinced addiction was the sole reason for his actions.
“It’s hard for me to accept, absent any external evidence, that his level of drug addiction was so high that it didn’t manifest itself in his work for the union, lobbying for Legislature, meetings with [U.S.] Sen. [Susan] Collins, and his work product at Bath Iron Works,” the judge said.
Mike Keenan, president of Local S6, said he was disappointed the sentence wasn’t longer.
“Certainly, there was some leniency shown,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in Ryan’s actions. I was obviously expecting him to serve more time, but I respect the judge’s decision. [But] there are going to be some upset folks in Bath.”
Jones must report for his sentence March 14.
This story appears through a partnership with the Bangor Daily News.