DETROIT (WXYZ) — More than $1 million dollars in union dues were spent on cigars, hotels, and golf.
Now former UAW President Gary Jones is charged with embezzlement, racketeering and tax evasion.
- Former UAW Regional Director Vance Pearson pleads guilty in corruption scandal
- UAW official charged with embezzling union funds allegedly spent on golf equipment, cigars & more
“Today we are another step closer to ridding the UAW of its corrupt leadership and returning the union to the hardworking men and women who work there,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider during a press conference Thursday.
Schneider says Jones billed himself as a reformer in a corrupt union, but instead the former United Auto Workers President stole more than $1 million in union funds. They feds say Jones used that money to buy luxury items for himself and other union officials.
- UAW President Gary Jones resigns from union as Executive Board moves to remove, expel him, Regional Director Vance Pearson
“Five sets of custom-made golf clubs, specially designed by a golf pro; horseback riding on the beach... Over $60,000 in high end cigars, humidors and cigar paraphernalia,” said Schneider.
Schneider, along with top FBI, IRS, and Department of Labor officials announced embezzlement, racketeering, and tax evasion charges against Jones. The FBI had been closing in on the 62-year-old since August, when they raided his home in Canton.
“We stand before you today because of greed: the pure and simple greed of several men in positions of power,” said Steven D’Antuono, FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge. “The charges against Gary Jones are offensive to the hardworking men and women of the UAW.”
Jones is the 14th person charged in the wide-ranging UAW corruption probe that has no end in sight.
Federal court records show Jones conspired with two other ex-union officials who already pleaded guilty, and other unnamed union members still under investigation.
UAW leadership has insisted that current president Rory Gamble has not been told he’s a focus of the investigation, but Schneider refused to discuss any targets of the case.
“Our focus is on any corrupt activities within the UAW. It doesn’t matter who is operating it, it doesn’t matter who’s doing it. If there are corrupt activities in the UAW we’re focused on it,” said Schneider.
Union members tell 7 Action News they are thrilled the feds continue to bust corrupt leadership.
“When you have guys going out on strike to fight for everybody, not even just members of the union but the working class, and you’re getting $285 a week-- and [they’re] spending money on cigars and golf equipment? That’s disgusting,” said UAW Local 259 member Michael DiGiuseppe.
Schneider says federal oversight of the UAW is still on the table, but says they need to focus on the criminal case for the moment.
“The U.S. Justice Department is stepping in and saying enough! We have to bring this to an end, we have to rid the union of corruption, and I would hope that would give great confidence to anybody who’s working in the union,” said Schneider.
A lawyer for Gary Jones told they 7 Investigators he has no comment on the charges.
The UAW did issued a statement Thursday, that said in part, “This is a violation of trust, a violation of the sacred management of union dues, and goes against everything we believe in as a Union. Jones and all who betrayed the trust of our union should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, with no exceptions.”
Jones is charged in an information; he has not been formally indicted. That could be an indication a plea deal in the works. Schneider said “we’ll have to wait and see.”