The former manager of a carpenters’ union pension fund admitted embezzling $140,000 and making false statements on a required report to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
George R. Laufenberg, 72, of Wall Township, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin R. McNulty in Newark federal court to two counts of an indictment charging him with embezzling approximately $140,000 in pension benefits (Count One) and making false statements to the DOL (Count Five).
Laufenberg was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday, September 27, 2019, for defrauding the funds of more than $1.5 million while he earned an annual salary of approximately $300,000. He may get to keep most of that money under the terms of this plea bargain.
Laufenberg was charged with using his authority to unilaterally grant himself a $120,000 pension and $180,000 in annual deferred compensation, without retiring, or without giving notice or receiving approval from the funds’ board of trustees.
Gov. Chris Christie appointed Laufenberg to the Board of Commissioners at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in July 2014.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Laufenberg was the administrative manager of the Northeast Carpenters Pension Fund, which was subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Laufenberg was a fiduciary and participant in the pension fund. He admitted to stealing $140,000 that was paid to him under a deferred compensation agreement to which he was not entitled.
That is a fraction of the $1.5 million Laufenberg was accused of embezzling.
The 2019 indictment also said Laufenberg used his authority to grant a personal friend, who was a low-show employee at the funds, a full salary with a pension, annuity contributions, and full health care coverage.
Laufenberg also admitted that he made false statements in a form required under ERISA that he filed to the Department of Labor on behalf of the pension fund.
The maximum penalty for each count is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 6, 2022.