Gary Jones, the former President of the United Auto Workers, plead guilty today to charges of embezzlement, racketeering, and tax evasion. Jones was charged March 5 of embezzling more than a million dollars from the UAW, which represents manufacturing workers at General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV. The federal court district for Eastern Michigan said Jones admitted to conspiring with at least six other UAW officials in a years-long conspiracy to use union funds for personal gain.
The Eastern District of Michigan said on its website that the plea deal reached by Jones and prosecutors comes with an advised sentence between 3.5 and 4.5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Jones also agreed to give up $81,000 in a UAW flower fund, ostensibly a fund to purchase flowers for member funerals, $38,000 in a fund intended for use in internal UAW political campaigns, $32,377 in cash seized from his residence in August, and a set of seized Titleist golf clubs. Jones has also agreed to cooperate with the government in further prosecutions, which may reduce his sentence.
“I apologize to my UAW family for the betrayal of their trust and pray they will forgive me,” said Jones, who entered his guilty plea to the U.S. District Court in Detroit by videoconference.
A statement on the Department of Justice’s website says that, between 2010 and 2018, Jones and other high ranking members submitted reimbursement forms for money supposedly spent on leadership and training conferences—but the forms were fraudulent. Jones and other UAW officials used the money to pay golf course fees and purchase cigars, private villas, golfing apparel, golf clubs, food, and expensive liquor. Jones also pled guilty to conspiracy to steal money from the UAW’s Community Action Program alongside Edward Robinson, who cashed over $500,000 in fraudulent checks as part of the scheme.
With Jones’s plea deal, the Department of Justice turns towards a thornier problem: what to do with the post-Jones UAW. “The UAW’s leadership, at the highest level, has engaged in a pattern of corruption and illegal activity,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan.
In an interview with Reuters, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan Matthew Schneider said the union was in “urgent” need of reform, and that a Teamsters-style federal takeover of the union was still on the board. The government appointed a trustee to run the International Brotherhood of Teamsters after racketeering violations in 1989. The union entered a transition period in 2015 and formally exited the period of government oversight in February 2020.
The FBI raided Jones’s house in August 2019 following a long-running investigation into corruption at the high-profile union, which represents over 400,000 active members and more than 580,000 retirees in more than 600 local unions. In November 2019, Jones took a leave of absence from the union after being implicated in the arrest of Vance Pearson and the charging of Edward Robinson with conspiracy to embezzle. Jones later resigned from his position and was forced from the union. In March, when Jones was charged, the union issued a statement criticizing Jones and vowing to implement reforms. “Jones and all who betrayed the trust of our union should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, with no exceptions,” it read.