(WXYZ) — Joseph Ashton, former Vice President of the UAW’s General Motors Department, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
Ashton, 72, conspired with other UAW officials to engage in honest services fraud by taking $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks from a UAW vendor and to launder the proceeds of the scheme.
Ashton pleaded guilty to conspiring with two other high-level UAW officials—Michael Grimes and Jeffrey Pietrzyk—to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources (CHR).
Grimes and Pietryzk have also pleaded guilty, officials say. Grimes was sentenced to 28 months in prison and Pietrzyk is awaiting sentencing.
The CHR is supposed to be a center for training UAW workers employed by GM. Ashton was the co-director of the Center for Human Resources. Ashton, Pietrzyk and Grimes also served on the Executive Board for the Center for Human Resources and they were responsible for approving contracts with the vendors.
Ashton admitted that over the course of the conspiracy, he and the other two UAW officials demanded and accepted bribes and kickbacks from a vendor based in Philadelphia in exchange for securing or maintaining a contract to provide custom watches to the Center for Human Resources.
Ashton and his UAW co-conspirators demanded kickbacks on the $3.9 million contract for the Center for Human Resources to buy 58,000 watches for all UAW members employed by GM. Ashton demanded over $250,000 in kickbacks on the watch contract to be distributed between 2013 through 2016. Some of the kickbacks were distributed in the form of checks payable to Ashton which were deposited into his personal bank account.
The majority of the kickbacks were distributed as cash.
In 2014, the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources received the 58,000 watches from the vendor. However, the watches were never distributed to UAW members. Instead, the watches were left sitting in a storage room at the CHR for over five years.
Officials say Ashton also admitted that he conspired to launder the proceeds of the kickback scheme by using various methods to conceal and disguise the bribes and kickbacks through a lengthy and complicated series of financial transactions. Ashton is one of 15 defendants convicted in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation UAW corruption.
“Joseph Ashton illegally used his power and influence to benefit himself, and he caused long-lasting damage to the hardworking members of the UAW," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. "Ashton wasted almost $4 million that could have been used to train UAW members, and his crimes led to the closing of the UAW-GM training center and the loss of many training center jobs. Ashton’s greed caused irreparable damage to the trust UAW members have in their leaders who are supposed to represent their best interests."