Ex-Fiat Chrysler executive charged in union official payoff

DETROIT — A former Fiat Chrysler executive was charged Wednesday with looting a training centre for blue-collar workers by giving $1.2 million through a variety of ways to a UAW leader, his wife and other senior union officials.

Al Iacobelli was indicted in an alleged conspiracy involving United Auto Workers vice-president General Holiefield and Holiefield’s wife, Monica Morgan. Holiefield died in 2015.

The indictment describes a multiyear scheme to reward Holiefield and Morgan with first-class travel, designer clothing and jewelry. A $262,000 mortgage on their home in suburban Detroit was paid off, according to the grand jury.

Iacobelli treated himself to more than $350,000 for a Ferrari, the government alleged.

The “indictment exposes a disturbing criminal collaboration that was ongoing for years between high ranking officials of FCA and the UAW,” said David Gelios, head of the FBI in Detroit. FCA is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In June 2015, Iacobelli suddenly departed from Fiat Chrysler with little explanation. He was the company’s North American labour relations chief and head of Mexico human resources. Holiefield was responsible for negotiating with Fiat Chrysler on behalf of the UAW.

The allegations call “into question the integrity of contracts negotiated during the course of this criminal conspiracy,” Gelios said.

The government said the money came from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit, which was created to retrain auto workers. Fiat Chrysler made annual payments of $13 million to $28 million to the centre, from 2009 to 2014. Iacobelli and Holiefield were co-chairmen.

Morgan and Iacobelli are charged with conspiracy and tax crimes. Iacobelli is also charged with making illegal payments to a union official.

Morgan’s lawyer, Steve Fishman, declined to comment. A message seeking comment was left for Iacobelli’s lawyer.

In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said the company and the union are victims in the alleged scheme. The automaker said it fired Iacobelli and Jerome Durden, who worked in finance, after “obtaining credible evidence of wrongdoing” in 2015.

Iacobelli, however, landed another job — at rival General Motors as executive director of labour relations. GM spokesman Tom Wickham said he didn’t know Iacobelli’s status after the indictment.

Iacobelli is accused of enriching himself, too. The indictment said $40,000 was transferred from the training centre to complete the purchase of two solid gold Mont Blanc pens. He also is accused of taking $375,000 to install a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his home in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Separately, prosecutors unsealed a conspiracy charge against Durden, who handled finances at the training centre. The charges against him were filed as criminal “information,” which means that a guilty plea is expected. His lawyer declined to comment.

Holiefield began his career in 1973 as a Chrysler factory worker in Detroit. He became a UAW vice-president in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010.

“My goal has always been to lift people out of poverty and to give them a better standard of living,” Holiefield said in 2013.

Holiefield took a leave of absence in 2014 after he was charged with accidentally shooting his wife while cleaning a handgun at his home. He pleaded no contest to reckless use of a firearm.

Holiefield soon retired from the union. Less than a year later, in March 2015, he died of pancreatic cancer at age 61.


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