Ex-United Auto Workers president charged with embezzling $1 million as federal corruption probe escalates


Gary Jones, the newly-elected President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), addresses the 37th UAW Constitutional Convention June14, 2018 at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

DETROIT — Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones was charged with embezzlement and defrauding the U.S. government as part of a multiyear corruption probe into one of America’s most prominent unions.

Court documents unsealed Thursday suggest more union officials could be charged as federal prosecutors identified four other unnamed co-conspirators in the scheme that allegedly included embezzling more than $1 million of union funds for golf trips, expensive cigars, liquor and other merchandise and luxuries. 

The charges were released as part of a criminal information. Criminal informations are routinely used to charge people who intend to plead guilty.

Jones resigned from leading the 400,000-member union effective Nov. 20 — the same day the UAW International Executive Board started the process of removing him from office.

Jones began a leave of absence from the union starting Nov. 3, days after he was implicated as being part of the ongoing probe that has led to convictions of 13 other people, including 10 affiliated with the union and three Fiat Chrysler executives.

The charges against Jones come days after federal prosecutors secured the conviction of one of his former top aides, Edward “Nick” Robinson, who agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as part of a plea deal.

Jones and his predecessor, UAW President Dennis Williams, have been targeted by federal officials for some time as part of the probe, including raids on their homes in August. Williams has not been charged with any crimes.

Federal officials previously said Jones, who was elected UAW president in June 2018, was one of a handful of union leaders who conspired to “embezzle, steal, and unlawfully and willfully abstract” more than $1.5 million in cash and assets for personal gain to fuel “lavish lifestyles.”

Senior union officials involved in the scheme bought lavish dinners and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hotels and private villas and tens of thousands of dollars on cigars as well as golf green fees and merchandise, investigators said.

FBI agents walking into the home of United Auto Workers President Gary Jones after removing materials from the location on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

The alleged illegal activities, according to federal prosecutors, occurred from about 2010 until last September.

When the federal investigation was made public in July 2017, it focused on a jointly operated training center between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler. But it quickly expanded to probes into similar operations with General Motors and Ford Motor, which both previously confirmed they were cooperating with the investigation.

In recent months, the probe has widened to top union leaders unaffiliated with the training centers being involved in embezzlement of union funds, money laundering and other illegal activities.

No one from the union’s Ford department has been charged and neither has any executives with GM or Ford. GM, as part of a recently ratified contract with the union, dissolved the training center.

UAW Vice President Rory Gamble, who oversees the union’s Ford department, is serving as acting president of the union.

Correction: A previous version mischaracterized the court filing. It was a criminal information.

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