Gary Jones, the former leader of the United Auto Workers, was sentenced today to 28 months in prison after pleading guilty last June to charges of embezzling money from the UAW. The charges carried a recommended sentence of between 42-54 months, or between three and a half to four and a half years, but Justice Department prosecutors in the Eastern District of Michigan said they sought a lower prison sentence for Jones for cooperating with investigators.
In addition to jail time, which he will likely spend in a Texas low-security federal prison, Jones will have to pay a slew of fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those fines include $550,000 in restitution to the UAW, $42,000 restitution to the IRS, $151,377 in forfeiture, and a $10,000 fine specifically for conspiring with former UAW President Dennis Williams to evade taxes.
Jones pled guilty last year to two charges of conspiracy, one to embezzle and one to conceal embezzled funds from the IRS. He admitted to spending the embezzled money, more than $1 million in total, to purchase luxury goods like golf clubs, golf apparel, cigars, personal travel, and a private villa.
Before receiving his sentence, Jones apologized for his actions and told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman that he had “failed” members of the UAW who elected him their leader.
“All I can say is I’m sorry I let them down, I let my family down,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Gardey, in comments to the court reported by the Associated Press, said Jones was exposed to a “culture of corruption” at the union. Jones, Gardey said, used union money to curry favor with other high-ranking officials and hang on to power in a system that prioritized connections with leadership.
Jones is the second former UAW head to be sentenced after his predecessor Williams and the sixteenth defendant convicted in connection into an ongoing Justice Department probe into corrupt conduct at the UAW. One former UAW official, Vance Pearson, has already plead guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing; another, Jeffrey Pietrzyk, died before he could be sentenced. Jones personally conspired with at least six other high-up UAW officials, said prosecutors.
“Unions can only be effective if members trust their leadership to work in the best interest of the entire union,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “Gary Jones and the fifteen leaders convicted over the course of this investigation were clearly unworthy of that trust.”
Despite earlier speculation that the government might seek to place the union under government control, the UAW reached a formal agreement with U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in December 2020 preventing that outcome.
In that agreement, the UAW instead agreed that it would conduct a secret ballot referendum that could change the UAW’s delegate-based election system to a more directly democratic model, overseen by a judge-appointed Independent Monitor with the power to investigate fraud and discipline union members. Neil Barofsky was appointed Independent Monitor by a federal judge in May 2021 and will oversee the union for six years.