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Ex-UAW VP Joe Ashton pleads guilty to taking $250K in bribes

Posted: 3:22 PM, Dec 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-04 22:06:52-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton pleaded guilty to a bribery and kickback scheme involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ashton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. It's part of the same kickback scheme as Jeffrey Pietrzyk and Michael Grimes, both of whom pleaded guilty.

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: "“The crimes that Joe Ashton has plead guilty to are against everything we stand for as a union, demonstrate his self-interest, and signify his lack of respect for the oath he took to protect the sacred dues money of our UAW brothers and sisters. Under the leadership of Acting President Rory Gamble, the UAW and our Board are focused on reviewing and tightening policies and controls and implementing new measures to restore the full faith and trust of our more than 400,000 members across the country. If we find there has been wrongdoing, we will take all available actions to hold that person accountable.”

In a statement after he was charged, 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."