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Former UAW VP and GM Board Member Sentenced to 30 Months for Taking Bribes

Nov. 18, 2020
Joseph Ashton’s sentence is the latest related to a federal corruption investigation of the UAW.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan announced that Joseph Ashton, former General Motors Co. board member and former VP of the United Auto Worker’s GM Department was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring with other top UAW officials to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

The 30-month sentence comes as the result of Ashton’s guilty plea, entered in December 2019, that he and two other top officials with the UAW’s GM Center for Human Resources demanded bribes and kickbacks from a watch vendor in Philadelphia in exchange for custom watches.

According to the charges, Ashton and two co-conspirators wrote a contract for $3.9 million to a Philadelphia vendor in exchange for $58,000 custom made watches for UAW GM employees—and more than $250,000 in mostly-cash kickbacks. The watches, which the UAW received in 2014, were never given out.

Ashton also plead guilty to laundering money in an attempt to conceal the scheme. He is set to serve 30 months in prison, where he will report in June. U.S. District Judge Friedman, who sentenced him, allowed the delay due to the risk of exposing Ashton, 72, to coronavirus, but stopped short of sentencing him to house arrest.

Ashton is one of fifteen defendants convicted in connection to the Justice Department’s ongoing corruption investigation into the UAW. The investigation has even resulted in sentences against two former UAW Presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones.

“Joseph Ashton is another in a long line of UAW officials that failed in his fiduciary duties and betrayed the trust of the UAW membership by using his union position to obtain bribes and kickbacks from vendors in excess of $250,000 so that he could enrich himself and others within the UAW,” said Thomas Murray, the District Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

The breadth of the charges has led some government attorneys to speculate about placing the UAW under government control, a move that would duplicate anticorruption measures imposed on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1989 following racketeering violations.

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