Federal prosecutors charged a fourth player in the widening United Auto Workers-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles corruption scandal on Friday, providing a clearer picture of how the years-long conspiracy went down.
Virdell King, a former senior UAW official and the first black woman to head a UAW-FCA local, now faces the same charges as three others indicted in the $4.5 million money-funnelling scheme. King, who retired in 2016, served on the board of the scandal-plagued UAW-Chrysler National Training Center — a facility prosecutors claim acted as a money pit for the enrichment of FCA and UAW execs.
In a document filed in U.S. District court in Detroit yesterday, prosecutors allege former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli opened the cash taps to UAW brass in an attempt to bribe them into taking “company-friendly positions.” The training center’s funds, earmarked for autoworkers, served as the bank. NTC credit cards apparently made making the lavish purchases a breeze.
“If you see something you want, feel free to buy it,” Iacobelli said, according to the court filing.
A federal investigation led by the FBI and IRS saw indictments against former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden, Iacobelli (who pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States earlier this month), and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of late UAW VP General Holiefield.
In 2015, Nancy Johnson, top assistant to current UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, allegedly told King to use her credit card for the purchase of a birthday gift. Jewell then took ownership of a $2,180 shotgun (since returned, and the fund reimbursed). Other items King purchased include golf clubs, designer luggage, a $1,000 pair of stiletto pumps, concert and theme park tickets, the document states. In total King is alleged to have made $40,000 in purchases on her NTC credit card.
Johnson has not been charged in the affair.
By keeping them “fat, dumb and happy,” prosecutors claim, Iacobelli hoped union brass would go FCA’s way come bargaining time. Both parties claim the conspiracy didn’t impact the results of the collective bargaining process.
UAW President Dennis Williams said he was “disheartened” to hear of the alleged misconduct Friday. “Based on our own internal investigation, we believe anyone who engaged in intentional misconduct is no longer employed by the UAW,” the labor boss said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate with the DOJ and share information with the government.”
Williams says the purported deeds do not call into question the union’s contract with FCA. Last month, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne echoed the sentiment. “This conduct had nothing whatsoever to do with the collective bargaining process,” he said.
Even though the indictments concern retired (or fired) officials, existing leadership isn’t spared from the scandal’s taint. On Friday, FCA pulled the plug on next week’s media at the Belvidere Assembly Plant — an event where Jewell and Marchionne were scheduled to appear.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]