Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Former Teachers Union chief gets more prison time

- By Paula McMahon Staff writer

A federal judge rejected part of former Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo’s plea agreement with prosecutor­s Friday and sentenced him to serve an additional 18 months in federal prison — after he serves a five-year state prison term.

Santeramo, 68, was sentenced last week to five years in state prison for receiving $165,000 from a kickback scheme he operated at the union.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Santeramo was expecting to serve a maximum of five years for the state and federal offenses at the same time in state prison.

But U.S. District Judge William Zloch, who had warned he was not bound to follow the terms of the plea agreement between the prosecutio­n and defense when Santeramo pleaded guilty to the federal mail fraud charge in February, imposed an additional punishment. The judge also fined him $4,000.

Santeramo was clearly surprised by the turn of events in court and seemed lost for words when the judge asked him a question. He later declined to comment.

A jury found Santeramo guilty of taking money from the union he led in the state case and Santeramo later admitted, in the federal case, that he took money the school district gave the union.

Santeramo told the judge he “had tried to live a good and respectful life” and described his yearslong criminal conduct as a “snapshot in time.”

“I regret and accept my actions,” he told the judge.

Judge Zloch asked Santeramo questions about the $189,000 annual salary he was receiving from the union in 2011 when he resigned in December 2011 under criminal investigat­ion and facing a union expulsion vote. Then the judge asked him about the average and top salaries paid to the teachers Santeramo represente­d, which Santeramo estimated at $50,000 and $77,000.

“Well, I’m just curious, Mr. Santeramo,” Zloch said. “All the time that you were president of the Broward Teachers Union, you were obviously making a very nice salary … and the very people that you were supposed to represent … were not making anything close to that,” Zloch said.

Santeramo agreed his salary was significan­t but told the judge it was for yearround work, not the 196 days or so he said teachers work.

“You’re not suggesting to me that your position was more strenuous than a classroom teacher?” the judge asked.

“Every position in public education is strenuous,” Santeramo replied.

The former band director at Walker Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale was hired by the district in 1978 and taught for 17 years before becoming a full-time union employee.

He led the union for 10 years, taking over from Tony Gentile, who served federal prison time after he was caught in a sting with child porn and trying to meet a minor for sex.

Santeramo surrendere­d early this afternoon in Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson’s courtroom and was taken into custody to begin serving the state prison sentence.

Santeramo’s team of lawyers, led by Benedict Kuehne and Larry S. Davis, said they have not yet decided whether they will appeal the judge’s sentencing decision.

The federal conviction could cost Santeramo his state pension, authoritie­s said.

In the federal case, Santeramo admitted he misappropr­iated money the Broward School District gave the union each year for an accountabi­lity program.

In the state case, prosecuted by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, a jury found him guilty of eight charges including grand theft, money laundering, organized scheme to defraud and violating campaign contributi­on laws.

 ??  ?? Pat Santeramo must serve an additional 18 months in federal prison.
Pat Santeramo must serve an additional 18 months in federal prison.

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