Edward D. Mullins, one of the most powerful and combative leaders in the history of the New York City sergeants’ union, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud on Thursday in a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization and its members.
Mr. Mullins was fraudulently reimbursed for about $1 million that he spent on luxury items and meals at high-end restaurants over nearly two decades as president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, according to Manhattan federal prosecutors.
They said Mr. Mullins used his personal credit card on expenses and submitted false reports seeking repayment from the union. He was charged in February with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“Edward Mullins promised to look out for the thousands of hard-working N.Y.P.D. sergeants who are members of the S.B.A. Instead, as admitted today in federal court, he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them to fund his lavish lifestyle,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, said in a statement on Thursday.
His “betrayal has been exposed, and he now faces jail time and significant financial penalties,” Mr. Williams added.
Mr. Mullins is expected to be sentenced on May 25 by Judge John G. Koeltl.
“He acknowledged he’s wrong, accepted responsibility, and we’re hopeful the judge will treat him fairly at sentencing,” Thomas Kenniff, Mr. Mullins’s lawyer, told reporters after the hearing.
The plea marks the final chapter in the case against the disgraced union leader, who rose to the national stage as a staunch supporter of former President Donald J. Trump and an ardent opponent of police reform.
It also represents one of the most sweeping investigations of a local union leader since the probe into the financial dealings of Norman Seabrook, the politically connected leader of the city’s correction officers’ union. Mr. Seabrook was convicted in 2018 of steering $20 million from the union into a high-risk hedge fund in exchange for a kickback worth at least $100,000.
In New York, Mr. Mullins was considered a fierce defender of sergeants past and present and was well-known for bombastic and often vulgar remarks. He declared war on former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020 after two officers were shot inside a Bronx precinct. Tensions between them escalated after Mr. Mullins shared a police report on Twitter detailing the arrest of Mr. de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, during protests over police brutality and racial justice.
That same year, on Twitter, he used a vulgar name to refer to Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner at the time. In another Twitter post, he disparaged Representative Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat who was then a City Council member. In 2021, he was fined about $32,000 for violating Police Department social media rules.
In the wire fraud case, federal prosecutors said Mr. Mullins paid for a relative’s college tuition and used his personal credit card to buy expensive jewelry, clothing, home appliances and meals from 2017 to around October 2021. He also sought a $3,000 reimbursement in 2019 for meals at a Greenwich Village restaurant that were unrelated to his union work.
Mr. Mullins then filed altered expense reports with the union treasurer, but rarely provided receipts. The treasurer gave Mr. Mullins checks to reimburse him, prosecutors said. He would deposit those checks and used the money to pay his credit card bills.
He also doctored his credit card statements to make it appear that items cost more than they did. He typically kept two copies of those statements: a “clean copy” and a “work copy” that was filled with handwritten annotations, prosecutors said.
John Driscoll, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former president of the city police captains’ union, said he was baffled that the yearslong scheme had gone undetected.
“I’m a little amazed that quite frankly it went on apparently for a long period of time,” he said. “You have a fiduciary responsibility, when you’re head of a union especially, to look out for your members,” he added.
Mr. Mullins resigned as head of the sergeants’ union in October 2021, hours after federal investigators raided his home in Port Washington on Long Island and the union headquarters in Manhattan. He retired from the Police Department about a month later. He was charged in February 2022 and surrendered to the F.B.I.
At that time, the police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, said detectives worked alongside the F.B.I. public corruption unit to investigate Mr. Mullins.
Mr. Mullins “violated the ethics and rules of this department, the trust of 13,000 sergeants, active and retired whom he represented, and the laws of the United States,” she said.
Téa Kvetenadze contributed reporting.