Disgraced UAW boss Jones set to plead guilty

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UAW president Gary Jones marches with Union workers in the Labor Day parade down Michigan Ave. Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 in Detroit, Mich.

UAW president Gary Jones marches with Union workers in the Labor Day parade down Michigan Ave. Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 in Detroit, Mich. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

DETROIT – Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones is scheduled to plead guilty to embezzling more than $1 million, racketeering and income tax evasion on March 19, according to a court filing Friday.

The court hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Paul Borman was set one day after federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal case against the disgraced labor leader.

Jones is facing two charges, each of which could send him to prison for up to five years. The charges are conspiracy to embezzle union funds and using a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering activity, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by evading income taxes. His lawyer, Bruce Maffeo, has declined comment.

Jones is the highest-ranking UAW official charged during a years-long crackdown on corruption within the U.S. auto industry that has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes.

Jones, 63, was charged in a criminal information following months of increasing pressure from investigators.

UAW presidents Gary Jones, Dennis Williams implicated in federal probe

The investigators are armed with bank records and cooperation from several Jones aides who admitted helping embezzle money from rank-and-file workers that was spent on personal luxuries, including private villas, lavish travel, food, liquor and golf.

“That money could have been used to help people. Give us our money back,” said Patrice Wilson, 47, a 22-year UAW member who is transferring from General Motors Co.’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant to Toledo Engine in Ohio. “It’s supposed to have been used for UAW things, not for his own personal gain.”

So far, 13 people affiliated with the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have been convicted of federal crimes since 2017.

Jones is accused of helping orchestrate a nine-year embezzlement conspiracy that started in 2010.

Since August, federal agents have raided his home, searched his bank accounts, seized more than $32,000 and portrayed him as a thief who tried to cover up crimes and obstruct investigators, according to court records that identified him by the alias “UAW Official A.”

The plea hearing will reveal how much time Jones could spend in prison. His plea agreement will include a recommended sentence and an advisory guideline range, though Borman has wide discretion in issuing a prison sentence.

The plea agreement also could reveal new clues about the government’s ongoing investigation.

Jones is scheduled to plead guilty two days after former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton is sentenced to prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme.

The government’s recommended sentence for Ashton is 30-37 months. The crimes carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years and 10 years, respectively.

UAW’s former GM VP Ashton linked to bribery probe

Ashton, who retired from the UAW in 2014, was appointed as the union’s representative on the board of General Motors Co.

During his UAW tenure, Ashton was accused of demanding $550,000 in kickbacks and bribes from vendors.

In return, a list of vendors that included Ashton’s personal chiropractor received contracts to produce more than $15.8 million worth of union-branded trinkets, including backpacks, jackets and commemorative watches.

(Detroit News staff writer Breana Noble contributed.)

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