The scope of the UAW corruption probe continues to widen as the union works to agree on new labor contracts in Detroit.
Federal prosecutors charged their 12th person in the multiyear investigation with conspiracy to embezzle union funds on October 31, 2019. A conspiracy charge of defrauding the United States was added, with both felonies carrying up to five years in prison.
This action took place after federal investigators went to UAW president Gary Jones’ home in August to remove materials.
All of the alleged activities took place between 2010 and September 2019, with the focus on current and retired officials. Senior officials allegedly bought lavish dinners, had private villas, and purchased golfing merchandise to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars with the embezzled money.
They even allegedly spent over $60,000 on cigars and paraphernalia.
What Is Going to Happen to Gary Jones?
The board of directors for the United Auto Workers union moved in November to begin the removal process of Gary Jones from the presidency. After initially fighting the effort, Jones announced on November 30 that he was quitting his affiliation with the union of which he was a member since 1975.
He was facing internal Article 30 charges that would have removed his membership and position of office. Jones chose to resign instead of being forcibly removed.
The step was an unprecedented action in the history of the UAW. Observers also believe that this action is a signal indicating the investigation into the corruption scheme is going to be entering a new phase.
By taking the step to resign, Jones gains the opportunity to avoid the embarrassment of a union trial.
Jones Has Not Yet Been Charged With Any Crimes
Jones initially requested a leave of absence from his duties on November 2, which the union granted. This process allowed for negotiations with General Motors, Fiat-Chrysler, and Ford to continue for their 150,000 auto workers and the 400,000 national membership.
Avoiding the trial is likely a step to prevent any union sanctions that might take place, like the denial of a pension. Jones began his career in the industry by working at the Ford plant in Broken Arrow, OK. As a certified accountant, he served as the top non-elected financial person for almost a decade before becoming the president.
Disengaging from the union as quickly as possible might help him to avoid issues of restitution if he took money from the treasury, but it will not stop the federal investigation.
The same cannot be said of the other individuals that are under federal investigations. Former UAW VP Joe Ashton, who was responsible for running the GM division at the union, entered a guilty plea on December 4 in Detroit as part of a deal with prosecutors. The charges include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
The corruption probe into the union’s leadership continues, with more charges expected to be brought against individuals in the near future.
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