Former United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton is the unnamed union official in a federal criminal complaint who is accused of demanding $550,000 in kickbacks and bribes from vendors, The Detroit News reported.
The complaint, unsealed Wednesday, charges former UAW official Mike Grimes with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering, the newspaper said.
Norwood Jewell, the former Vice President of the UAW and the highest official in the UAW’s Chrysler Department, was sentenced to prison Aug. 5 based on his conviction for accepting bribes from high-level executives of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The Court’s sentencing of Jewell marks the eighth defendant to be sentenced in the ongoing criminal investigation into alleged illegal payoffs to UAW officials, Schneider said.
According to The Detroit News:
Prosecutors have not publicly identified Grimes’ alleged co-conspirators or two UAW contractors who paid bribes and kickbacks. But four sources familiar with the investigation identified Ashton as “Union Official 1,” the senior UAW official who is accused of conspiring to demand and receive bribes in exchange for steering multimillion-dollar contracts to vendors, including his personal chiropractor.
In a statement, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg called the charges against Grimes “shocking and absolutely disgraceful,” adding: “Make no mistake about it, our laser focus continues to be on obtaining strong labor agreements with FCA, Ford and General Motors that secure our members’ economic and financial future.”
The Detroit News previously reported that Grimes allegedly received $1.99 million in kickbacks from vendors, according to the government.
Meanwhile, the UAW is in collective bargaining talks with GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford Motor Co, which could cloud the negotiations, Bloomberg reported.
The new charges involve procurement of goods for the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources (CHR). The center is meant to educate and train GM employees, and its funding is negotiated as part of collective bargaining agreements.
The scheme defrauded “the CHR and UAW members of their right to honest, faithful, and impartial services, including the CHR’s and UAW members’ right to conscientious, loyal, faithful, disinterested, unbiased service,” prosecutors wrote in their complaint.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.