SUSSEX COUNTY-The former chairman of the Sussex County Democratic Party awaits arraignment this week after a federal grand jury charged him and two others for their roles in embezzling $284,000 from a local union and a now-defunct health fund. Charles W. Cart, of Hampton, chief executive officer of Health Choice, Inc. in Newton, was charged with conspiring to embezzle funds from Local 16 of the United Service Workers of America in Newton and its health fund, said U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in a five-count indictment handed down last week. Cart's stepfather, Charles H. Wiener, 68, of New Port Richey, Fla., and Marvin Raphael, 63, of Boca Raton, Fla., were also charged with conspiring to embezzle health and union funds as a result of a multi-faceted fraud scheme existing between May 2000 and November 2001, said Christie. Cart headed the Sussex County Democratic Part for 12-year. He resigned from the post in November, saying he was no longer able to devote the time and energy that the position needed. "I was taken completely by surprise with the recent announced indictment of Mr. Cart," said Howard Burrell, who replaced Cart as Sussex County Democratic chairman. "I consider him to be a friend, and hope that a further investigation of this matter will reveal that he is innocent. While Mr. Cart was at one time chairman of the Sussex County Democratic Party, it should be noted that his indictment in no way involves his activities as Democratic Party chair." A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said Cart was not arrested, but is expected to appear for a hearing in court within the next week, when a judge will set bail. The 56-year-old, if convicted on any one of the charges, could face a maximum sentence ranging from 5-20 years in federal prison and $250,000-$500,000 in fines. Cart, who founded the union before stepping down to create Health Choice, is accused, along with his co-conspirators, of contributing to the union's demise by stealing health funds that union workers paid into, said Christie. "On the one hand, this defendant led people to believe he was on their side as a labor organizer," said Christie. "Yet, as we allege, he then turned them into victims by embezzling from them, their union and their health fund." According to prosecutors, Cart embezzled funds to generate cash from the Local 16 Health Fund by fraudulently increasing the "per member" administration fee paid to Health Choice, a third-party administrator that processed the union's medical claims. The increased payments were then diverted to Wiener and another Cart family member who is not identified in the indictment. Between May 2000 and November 2001, Cart schemed to send approximately $144,000 in checks from his company, Health Choice, to another company, identified as Company-1 in the indictment. The money was sent under the guise of paying fees incurred by Company-1 on behalf of Local 16, prosecutors said. Instead, prosecutors said, Cart was using Company-1 as a conduit to get money to his stepfather, Charles Weiner. Cart also allegedly conspired with Raphael and Susan Donato to defraud Local 16 of $84,000 by creating a consulting position at Local 16 for Raphael. Prosecutors said there is no evidence that Raphael ever performed services for the union, but, between August, 2000 and July, 2001, he received monthly payments of $7,000, of which he forwarded approximately $56,000 to Cart directly or through his horse farm, Horsearound Stables. Donato, 47, of St. Cloud, Fla., was the president of Local 16 and administrator of the health fund. She pleaded guilty in January to helping embezzle from the fund and is cooperating in the government's investigation, authorities said. Cart and Wiener are also accused of money laundering and mail fraud.