A former high-level official in the United Auto Workers’ General Motors Department pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking more than $123,000 in bribes and kickbacks from vendors and contractors while working with the union.
Jeffery Pietrzyk worked as a top aide for retired UAW Vice President Joe Ashton and is the 10th defendant to plead guilty in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials and corruption within the union itself.
Pietrzyk also conspired to launder the proceeds from his wire fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider revealed Tuesday.
“The hard-working members of the UAW deserve to be represented by union officials dedicated to providing honest representation free of corruption and greed, and today’s guilty plea is another step in the right direction,” Schneider told the media.
During his plea hearing, Pietrzyk admitted to conspiring with two other high-level UAW officials within the union’s General Motors Department to take millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with a joint UAW-General Motors Center for Human Resources. Over the course of twelve years, he and the two other UAW officials demanded or accepted bribes and kickbacks from vendors in exchange for securing contracts with the Center for Human Resources or with the UAW’s General Motors Department.
For instance, in 2011 Pietrzyk and his two associates demanded a $300,000 kickback from a vendor who had secured a $6 million contract so they could use the money to purchase 50,000 jackets emblazoned with “Team UAW-GM.”
In another case, they demanded kickbacks on a $3.9 million contract so they could buy 58,000 watches for all UAW members employed by General Motors.
Pietrzyk also admitted to conspiring to launder the proceeds from his scheme “through a lengthy and complicated series of financial transactions.”
“Jeffrey Pietrzyk engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deprive the International United Auto Workers Union of his honest services by demanding and accepting over $120,000 in bribes and kickbacks from vendors. Instead of bargaining in the best interests of the UAW members, he chose to personally enrich himself. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the financial integrity of labor organizations,” stated Irene Lindow, special agent-in-charge with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
Manny Muriel, a special agent with the IRS’ Detroit Field Office, said “bribes, kickbacks, and money laundering permeated the UAW culture for years and years, all at the expense of its membership.”
Pietrzyk apologized to UAW members when speaking to the media outside a courthouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan Tuesday.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” he said. Prosecutors are recommending that he serve 24 to 30 months in prison for his crimes.
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