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Ex-UAW VP expected to plead guilty in ongoing federal corruption probe

Posted: 10:49 AM, Nov 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-20 14:43:24-05

(WXYZ) — Former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton is expected to plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges in connection to the ongoing federal corruption probe into the union.

Ashton was the 13th person charged in the corruption probe, and was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is charged in the same kickback scheme as Jeffrey Pietrzyk and Michael Grimes, both of whom pleaded guilty.

A plea hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4 at federal court in downtown Detroit.

He served as the UAW Vice President and Director of the GM Department, and also served on the board of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

According to a federal court filing, Ashton, Pietrzyk and Grimes worked with a vendor to provide watches to the CHR and UAW members, but in return, they "demanded and accepted from Vendor B hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash and checks."

In 2012, the feds allege Ashton approached the vendor and said that the UAW would purchase more than 50,000 watches and told the vendor to open a company that could win the contract.

The kickbacks continued until the fall of 2016, when the feds say news of their investigation into the UAW and Fiat Chrysler broke. They allege Ashton met with the vendor and said the payments had to stop because of the investigation into the UAW and FCA.

The vendor allegedly paid kickbacks in the form of checks to Ashton, Pietrzyk and Grimes. Those checks to Ashton were dated 2/26/2016 for $15,000, 4/11/2016 for $5,000, 5/18/2016 for $5,000 and 7/1/2016 for $5,000.

Other checks include:

– 8/28/2013 to Pietrzyk – $25,000 for "antique furniture"
– 8/29/2013 to Grimes – $12,500 for "antique furniture"
– 12/5/2013 to Grimes – $12,500 for "antique furniture"
– 1/18/2014 to Pietrzyk – $25,000 for "furniture"
– 7/18/2014 to Pietrzyk – $10,000 for "furniture"
– 8/12/2014 to Pietrzyk - $10,000 for "antique furniture"

Ashton was elected as UAW VP on June 16, 2010, and was previously the director of region 9, which covers western and central New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The UAW released this statement: "Joe Ashton’s actions, as set forth in the Government’s filings, are completely inexcusable and violate UAW’s long-standing standards of conduct put in place by former leaders like Walter Reuther. The UAW remains focused on negotiating and finalizing strong contracts for our members, especially during this round of auto negotiations."

In a statement, General Motors said, "GM is deeply disturbed by Joe Ashton’s alleged criminal conduct. GM was not aware of this illegal activity until it was recently revealed by the government’s investigation, or that he allegedly continued to benefit from this conduct after the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust (VEBA) appointed him to the GM Board, a position he resigned in December 2017."