ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — A former UAW official in the General Motors department pleaded guilty to taking bribes and kickbacks in the ongoing UAW corruption investigation.
Jeffery Pietrzyk, 78, of Grand Island, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in honest services wire fraud and to conspiring to launder money between 2006 and 2018. He is the 2nd person to plead guilty in connection to the UAW-GM training center and the 10th person to plead guilty in the investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials by FCA execs and corruption within the UAW, the AG's office said.
Pietrzyk was an assistant to UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, during the plea hearing, Pietrzyk admitted that he conspired with two other high-level UAW officials to taking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit.
That center is a training center for UAW workers employed by GM. Pietrzyk and the other officials allegedly served on the executive board for the center and were responsible for approving contracts with the vendors.
According to the USAG's office, Pietrzyk and the co-conspirators took bribes in exchange for contracts with the UAW and/or training center for watches, jackets, and UAW stores at GM manufacturing facilities. The AG's office said one example in 2011 found Pietrzyk and the other two demanded a vendor give them a $300,000 kickback on a $6 million contract to purchase 50,000 jackets with "Team UAW-GM" on it.
In another instance, the USAG's office said Pietrzyk and the other two demanded kickbacks of a $3.9 million contract to buy 58,000 watches. They say some kickbacks were distributed in checks disguised as tens of thousands of dollars in payments for "antique furniture," which were then deposited into Pietrzyk's personal bank account. A majority, the office said, were distributed as cash.
“The hard-working members of the UAW deserve to be represented by union officials dedicated to providing honest representation free of corruption and greed, and today’s guilty plea is another step in the right direction,” stated US Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Former UAW Official Mike Grimes has pleaded guilty to the same charges of money laundering and wire fraud. The feds say he got almost $2 million in kickbacks. Current UAW Regional Director Vance Pearson has also been charged.
When the charges came down, the UAW released a statement saying, "The charges against Jeff Pietrzyk are serious, and the conduct outlined in his charges is not just illegal, it is an affront to every member of the UAW. The UAW has already made changes to its purchasing procedures that require three bids and pushed the Joint Program Centers to significantly tighten their accounting controls to prevent this type of criminal activity from happening again. This conduct — which was suspiciously announced in the middle of our current bargaining — must not and will not distract us from negotiating the strongest possible contract for our members."