The retired president of the National Border Patrol Union pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he used the position he held for more than two decades to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars in union funds for personal use.
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Terence J. Bonner, 59, was indicted last week on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and forfeiture of ill-gotten gains in connection with the alleged scheme to defraud some 14,000 dues-paying union members.
According to the indictment, Bonner sought and obtained payment for supposedly union-related work and travel that turned out to be personal in nature.
The false claims included periods of time when Bonner was actually visiting his mistress in Chicago or family members, as well as trips to attend non-union activities, such as hockey games and other sporting events, the indictment alleges.
Federal authorities also accused Bonner for claiming "lost wages" for times when he was not working on union activities, but at home, downloading pornography at union expense.
Defense attorney Eugene Iredale called it "an attempt to smear somebody by bringing up some things about their personal life that might be embarrassing or difficult; things a lot of people undergo."
Bonner said he is innocent of the charges and will be exonerated.
"This wasn't about justice or truth. This was retribution for my outspokenness," said Bonner, who retired two years ago.
Iredale, exclaimed, "He never stole a penny."
Magistrate Judge Jan Adler Monday scheduled a motions hearing for Oct. 1.
The indictment alleges that Bonner, a Campo resident, submitted expense vouchers seeking reimbursement for union-related travel expenses such as meals, car rentals, tips, luggage, books and magazines when he was actually traveling for personal reasons, including vacations and other non-union activity.
Iredale said, "[Bonner] had quarrels and fights and disputes with Republican and Democratic administrations, and over those years, he made many enemies."
George McCubbin, the current head of the National Border Patrol Union, said, "We're pretty damned angry about this."
McCubbin said he and Bonner were friends years ago.
"For years, he gave a lot of credibility to our organization. He put us on the map, but unfortunately now he put a big black eye on us," said McCubbin.
Iredale told reporters, "There may have been sloppiness in some of the returns, but there was never, ever, ever any intention to defraud or to overcharge."
Bonner said he had a message he wanted put out there: "Today it's me. Tomorrow it could be you."
Bonner and a co-conspirator, identified in the indictment as a union officer, concealed from the union's membership "the manner in which Bonner was being personally enriched at Union expense," the indictment alleges.
Bonner headed the National Border Patrol Council for 22 years before leaving last year.
Bonner is free on $100,000 bond. He was told to surrender any firearms and is restricted from travel outside southern California, unless he gives 48 hours notice.
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