Former Official Stole Thousands, Lost Thousands Gambling

Although it cannot be proved it was union money, Sally Jo Widmer did manage to gamble  over $350,000 away.

AFT union officials caught on to the embezzlement after an audit, and it is believed the 30-year union president used at least $808,000 in Auburn Teachers Association money for her own purposes.

As we previously reported, it took AFT union officials years to discover Sally Jo Widmer had allegedly embezzled approximately $55,000 from the Auburn Teachers Association.

   Sally Jo Widmer didn’t know when to stop.

During the last seven years of her life, the former Auburn teachers union president lost $351,365 on slot machines and table games at Turning Stone Casino, according to Auburn Police Detective Jeffery Mead.

But no evidence of gambling had been disclosed until now.

From 2006 to 2012, Widmer lost $351,365 at Turning Stone, said Mead, who is investigating circumstances surrounding Widmer’s death and the missing union money.

Police don’t know for sure that the money she lost at the casino was union money.  “I can’t say definitively it was union money,” said Mead. “She was writing a lot of checks for cash. I don’t know where they were cashed.”

Widmer’s Turning Stone record  Average loss per year: -$50,195

Union officials discovered money missing days after Widmer died Nov. 7 in her Middlesex, N.Y., home. She was 63. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Yates County Sheriff’s Office.

The police have no other suspects in the alleged theft from the union, said Mead.

“It all leads to Widmer,” he said. “People interviewed say the same things – they had no reason to suspect her. She did a great job as union president, she came from money, she had a good job, a good pension, she lived in a family house that had been given to her, she had no children.”

At the request of Auburn Police, the Oneida Indian Nation voluntarily turned over Turning Stone records showing Widmer’s losses for the last seven years, the same time period covered by the audit of the union.

Widmer did not write checks on the union’s bank account directly to Turning Stone, Mead said. Over those seven years, she wrote checks totaling $488,319 to herself or for her expenses, Auburn police have said.

Robert Bergan, the attorney representing Widmer’s estate, said he has not been contacted by the Auburn Teachers Association or by the New York State United Teachers about a possible recovery from Widmer’s assets of funds she allegedly misspent. No assets have been distributed, he said, and won’t be until any possible claim is settled.

Cheryl Miskell, president of the Auburn Teachers Association, said the union was awaiting completion of the police report before filing a claim with the union’s insurer.