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A former union official for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for embezzling member dues.

Patrick Remigio, 49, pleaded guilty Oct. 19 to one felony count of wire fraud in connection with $170,000 missing from the bank accounts used by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2859 to deposit member dues.

The union chapter represents more than 400 ICE employees who enforce immigration laws in Arizona and Nevada. Employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles the legal immigration process, also are members.

Acting as both president and treasurer, Remigio controlled the debit and credit cards connected to the union chapter’s bank accounts from 2010 to 2013. He pleaded guilty to making numerous withdrawals from those accounts for his personal use via checks, bank transfers, cash withdrawals and credit card charges.

“He needs to be made an example of,” Ryan Hadden, president of AFGE Local 2859, told Judge David C. Bury at a sentencing hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Union officials started noticing discrepancies with the union’s funds in late 2012, Hadden said. They confronted Remigio and brought charges within the union against him.

After more than a year of trying to remove Remigio from office, the union sent Remigio a letter saying he was no longer a union official. The same day the letter arrived, Remigio went to the bank and took out $1,000 from the union chapter’s accounts, Hadden told Bury.

Federal prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst asked Bury to sentence Remigio to 18 months in prison. Under the plea agreement, Remigio faced 15 to 21 months in prison.

Public defender Eric Rau requested a sentence of probation, pointing to Remigio’s service in the Army and employment at ICE from 1994 to 2015, where he helped deport gang members to Central American countries.

Remigio was charged initially with two felony counts of false documents and eight felony counts of wire fraud. In his plea agreement, Remigio admitted to embezzling $95,000, which Kleindienst said was a “generous” plea offer from the government.

Bury ordered Remigio to pay $95,000 in restitution to the union. Rau said paying back the money will be a lifelong process for Remigio, who now works as a cabdriver.

An FBI audit of the union’s bank accounts indicated Remigio withdrew $170,000 and no records exist showing a connection between the withdrawals and legitimate union business, Kleindienst wrote in a Nov. 6 sentencing memorandum.

Remigio “remains stunned at the magnitude of the allegation,” Rau wrote in a Nov. 1 sentencing memorandum, but his poor record-keeping made it impossible for him to prove a “substantial amount” of the funds were used properly for union expenses.

Remigio was “well paid at ICE and he liked his work,” Rau wrote. “However, despite his comfortable salary from ICE and position of respect in leading the union, Mr. Remigio struggled a great deal personally and financially during his AFGE tenure, using union funds inappropriately and carelessly, and making a mess of the union’s bookkeeping.”

Remigio told Bury on Tuesday that he was “very sorry” and has “great respect” for union members.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter

@CurtTucsonStar