Feds charge 12th person in corruption probe into UAW union

FBI agents walking into the home of United Auto Workers President Gary Jones after removing materials from the location on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

DETROIT — The scope of an ongoing federal corruption probe into the United Auto Workers continues to widen as the union attempts to solidify new labor contracts with the Detroit automakers.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged Edward Robinson, a union official with ties to UAW President Gary Jones, with conspiracy to embezzle union funds and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Both are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.

Robinson, who led a regional UAW community action program council where Jones served as director, is accused of conspiring with union leaders to “embezzle, steal, and unlawfully and willfully abstract” more than $1.5 million in cash and assets for personal gain to fuel “lavish lifestyles,” according to a new criminal filing.

Jones and his predecessor, UAW President Dennis Williams, have been targeted by federal officials as part of the investigation, including raids on their homes in August, but have not been charged with any crimes. The Detroit News on Thursday, citing unnamed sources, identified both men as being unnamed co-conspirators in the filing that outlined the charges against Robinson.

The UAW issued the following statement in response to the federal corruption probe:

“We take any allegation or claim about the misuse of union resources very seriously. The UAW is grounded in the principle of putting our members first, and that belief has never wavered. The UAW remains focused on negotiating and finalizing strong contracts for our members–especially during this round of auto negotiations.”

Robinson was charged in a criminal information filing, which indicates a guilty plea is expected.

The alleged illegal activities, according to the filing, occurred from about 2010 until September. The time frame signals federal prosecutors are continuing to focus on retired and current UAW officials.

Senior union officials involved in the scheme allegedly bought lavish dinners and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hotels and private villas and tens of thousands of dollars on cigars as well as golf green fees and merchandise, according to the filing.

The allegations against Robinson — the 12th person charged as part of the probe — come a day after the UAW, including Jones, announced a new tentative deal with Ford Motor.

Ten people, including seven with the union, have been sentenced to prison as part of the probe. UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson, who took a leave of absence from the union, has been charged as part of the investigation but not been convicted.

The investigation was expected to add to the already contentious contract negotiations between the UAW and Detroit automakers.

— Correction: The headline for this story has been updated to reflect that Edward Robinson was the 12th person charged in the Federal investigation.

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