Former UAW President Gary Jones will be arraigned Thursday on charges he conspired with key aides to embezzle more than $1 million dollars in union funds. Jones also was charged with failing to pay income taxes on the money stolen from the United Auto Workers.
The arraignment will take place via a video conference organized by the U.S. District Court in Detroit.
In addition, federal prosecutors also are expected to bring racketeering charges against the former head of a union that under the legendary leader Walter Reuther and for much of its history was considered a model of probity and integrity.
In fact, Reuther’s long opposition to gangsters, who controlled illicit gambling inside Detroit auto plants in the 1930s and 1940s, were thought to have been behind the attempted assassination of Reuther in 1948 and the shooting that seriously wounded his brother Victor in 1949.
The charges against Jones, who is expected to plead guilty, cap a monthslong soap opera that began last summer in the midst of negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers when federal agents raided Jones’ home in suburban Detroit and found, according to court documents, golf equipment, bottles of expensive liquor and boxes of pricey cigars as well as thousands of dollars in cash as part of an ongoing investigation of corruption inside the union.
Two of Jones top lieutenants, Vance Pierson, who succeeded Jones as director of UAW Region 5, and Edward “Nick” Robinson, president of the UAW political arm in UAW Region 5, already have plead guilty to charges tied to the embezzlement conspiracy. During a court hearing this week, Robinson promised to cooperate federal authorities in return for a lighter sentence, 24 months in prison, for his part in the conspiracy, which revolved around filing phony expense vouchers and distributing cash to his co-conspirators.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Jones could face up to 10 years in prison but like every other the defendant in the unfolding union corruption scandal – a total 13 before federal prosecutors filed charges against him – the former UAW president also is expected to try and work out a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Federal investigators have made no secret of the fact they are also interested in Jones, predecessor, Dennis Williams, who led the union from 2014 to 2018 and also served as the union’s secretary treasurer from 2010 to 2014.
Prior to serving as UAW President from June 2018 to November 2019, Jones was the Director of UAW Region 5 and a member of the UAW’s International Executive Board from October 2012 through June 2018.
A criminal Information filed with the district court by federal prosecutors claimed that Jones conspired with at least six other senior UAW officials in a multiyear conspiracy to embezzle money from the UAW for the personal benefit of Jones and other senior UAW officials.
Jones 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, Jones 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.
As a candidate for UAW president, Jones resume was relatively thin compared to his predecessors. He had served as the union’s chief accountant before becoming an assistant director of the union’s Missouri office, but he had never bargained a major contract and was not a familiar figure to the majority of union members. He did put more resources into his campaign for the union presidency, which apparently hinged on an effort to win Williams’ endorsement, according to information contained in federal court papers.
The Information filed by federal prosecutors charged that Jones and other senior UAW officials used UAW money to pay for personal expenses, including golf clubs, private villas, cigars, golfing apparel, green fees at golf courses, and high-end liquor and meals costing over $750,000 in UAW funds. For example, in just one of the years of the conspiracy, Jones is charged with ordering more than $13,000 in cigars for the use of high-level UAW officials.
When federal investigators moved in last summer, Jones also sought to cover his tracks by suggesting Robinson and Pierson, his two closest confederates, destroy documents and begin using burner phones to cover their tracks, according to federal court documents.
The scandal broke into public view in 2017 when Alphons Iacobelli, then Fiat Chrysler vice president of labor relations, was charged with bribing the late General Holiefield, a then UAW vice president, in a bid to influence the administration of the company’s labor contract. Iacobelli also used money from joint training funds to buy a used Ferrari.
Rory Gamble, who replaced Jones as president, said, “All UAW members including the UAW leadership are and should be angry about former UAW member Gary Jones and his alleged actions. This is a violation of trust, a violation of the sacred management of union dues, and goes against everything we believe in as a Union. Jones and all who betrayed the trust of our union should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, with no exceptions.”