Ex-Fiat Chrysler executive charged in union official payoff
DETROIT (AP) — A former Fiat Chrysler executive was charged Wednesday with looting a training center 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 labor 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 center, 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 separate statements, Fiat Chrysler and the UAW said they were unaware of the alleged scheme while it was unfolding. The automaker said it got rid of Iacobelli and Jerome Durden, who worked in finance, after “obtaining credible evidence of wrongdoing” in 2015.
“The UAW has zero tolerance for corruption or wrongdoing of this kind at any level,” said union president Dennis Williams, who called the case a “betrayal of trust.”
Iacobelli landed another job — at rival General Motors as executive director of labor relations. GM spokesman Tom Wickham said he didn’t know his status after the indictment.
Iacobelli is accused of enriching himself, too. The indictment said $40,000 was transferred from the training center to complete the purchase of two solid gold Mont Blanc pens. He also is accused of taking thousands more to install a pool, outdoor kitchen, spa and landscaping at his home in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Separately, prosecutors unsealed a conspiracy charge against Durden, who handled finances at the training center. The charge was filed as criminal “information,” which means that a guilty plea is expected. His lawyer declined to comment.
The government alleges that a complex web of phony charities, sham corporations and credit cards was created to divert money from the training center.
Durden reported that he, Iacobelli and others set up a liberal policy for credit cards as part of an effort to keep union officials “fat, dumb and happy,” according to the indictment.
The government did not explain what Fiat Chrysler might have gained from the payments to Holiefield and his wife. Union workers there have received less lucrative contracts than workers at Ford Motor and GM. But Fiat Chrysler also has not been as profitable as its rivals.
Holiefield began his career in 1973 as a Chrysler factory worker in Detroit. He became a UAW vice president in 2006.
He took a leave of absence in 2014 after he was charged with accidentally shooting his wife while cleaning a handgun at his home. Holiefield soon retired. Less than a year later, in March 2015, he died of pancreatic cancer at age 61.
AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap