Another top officer of the United Auto pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit to federal criminal charges.
Vance Pearson, a former UAW director and a former member of the UAW’s International Executive Board, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring with other union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars of dues money and to further racketeering activity, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
Pearson, 58, of St. Charles, Missouri, pleaded guilty to conspiring to embezzle UAW dues money and conspiring to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering crimes between 2010 and September 2019.
Between June 2018 and September 2019, Pearson served as the Director of Region 5, which is headquartered in Hazelwood, Missouri, and covers the thousands of UAW members in Missouri and the 16 states to the southwest, including California and Texas.
As Region 5 Director, Pearson was a member of the UAW’s International Executive Board, which governs the affairs of the union. Prior to taking the role as director, Pearson served as the Assistant Director of Region 5 starting in 2016.
During the hearing, Pearson admitted he conspired with at least six other senior UAW officials in a multiyear conspiracy to embezzle money from the UAW for the personal benefit of Pearson and other senior UAW officials. Pearson and other UAW officials concealed personal expenditures in the cost of UAW Region 5 conferences held in Palm Springs, California, Coronado, California, and Missouri.
Between 2010 and 2018, Pearson and other UAW officials submitted fraudulent expense forms seeking reimbursement from the UAW’s Detroit headquarters for expenditures supposedly incurred in connection with Region 5 leadership and training conferences.
In truth, however, Pearson and his co-conspirators used the conferences to conceal the hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds spent on lavish entertainment and personal spending for the conspirators, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
For example, Pearson and other senior UAW officials used union money to buy sets of golf clubs, individual clubs, and other golf equipment that cost thousands of dollars. They spent more than $100,000 to purchase golf clothing, shirts, hats, sunglasses, golf balls, jackets and fashion shorts from various pro shops at golf courses in California and Missouri.
And they spent tens of thousands of dollars in UAW funds at the Indian Canyons golf course in Palm Springs on green fees for golfing outside of the time of the UAW conferences, federal authorities said.
Pearson, who faces up to 20 years in prison for his part in the conspiracy, is the 12th person to plead guilty in the years-long corruption investigation, which dates back to 2015. Among the 12 people charged and convicted in the investigation were three executives from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. Pearson has agreed to cooperate with federal authorities making it likely that other UAW officials also will face criminal charges, including former UAW President Gary Jones.
Brian Rothenberg, UAW director of communications, said in a statement, “Vance Pearson blatantly violated his oath of office and betrayed the trust of all our hard-working members. In November 2019, the UAW International Executive Board filed its own action against Mr. Pearson not just to remove him from his elected position but taking away his membership in the UAW entirely.
“While our Union is moving forward, we will never forget the costly lessons from our past. Under the leadership of President Rory Gamble in his first few days in office, working tirelessly with the Board, the UAW continues to implement a series of critical reforms necessary to strengthen the union’s financial controls, oversight, and its overall” accounting system so this type of conduct cannot happen again.
Rothenberg slammed reports that Gamble may also be a target of the investigation, calling the stories “inaccurate” adding the “federal government has never said or even suggested that President Rory Gamble is a target of its investigation. Indeed, just the opposite. More importantly, under his leadership, the Board and UAW continue to aggressively implement these critical reforms and pursue additional reforms,” the statement said.