Former UAW-GM vice president sentenced to 30 months in prison for fraud scheme

Joseph Ashton and two others bribed a company with a $3.9 million contract to make 58,000 watches for UAW members
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 4:05 PM EST
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DETROIT, Mich. (WJRT) - The former vice president of the United Auto Workers department representing General Motors employees will spend two and a half years in prison for his role in a $250,000 bribery and kickback scheme.

A U.S. District Court judge in Detroit sentenced Joseph Ashton to 30 months in a federal penitentiary. He is one of 15 men to plead guilty or be convicted in the scheme to obtain more than $250,000 in kickbacks and bribes, according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Ashton, who now lives in New Jersey, pleaded guilty in December 2019 to conspiring with UAW officials Michael Grimes and Jeffrey Pietrzyk to receive bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

All three admitted to demanding and accepting bribes worth $250,000 from a Pennsylvania company, which had a contract to provide custom watches for the union. The company received a $3.9 million contract to provide watches for 58,000 GM workers in the UAW.

Schneider said the Center for Human Resources received all 58,000 watches, but they sat in a storage room for five years and never were distributed to UAW members.

Some of the kickbacks came as deposits into Ashton’s bank accounts while some came as cash payments to all three union officials. Ashton allegedly laundered the money he received with a complex series of financial transactions.

Grimes and Pietryzk also pleaded guilty. Grimes was sentenced to 28 months in prison and Pietrzyk is awaiting sentencing.

The following former UAW leaders already have pleaded guilty to charges from the embezzlement scheme and appeared in court for sentencing:

  • Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli (66 months in prison).
  • Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Financial Analyst Jerome Durden (15 months in prison).
  • Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Employee Relations Department Director Michael Brown (12 months in prison).
  • Former senior UAW officials Virdell King (60 days in prison).
  • Keith Mickens (12 months in prison).
  • Nancy A. Johnson (12 months in prison).
  • Monica Morgan, the widow of UAW Vice President General Holiefield, (18 months in prison).
  • Former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell (15 months in prison).
  • Former senior UAW official Michael Grimes (28 months in prison).

The following former UAW officials have pleaded guilty to the embezzlement scheme and are awaiting sentencing:

  • Former UAW President Gary Jones.
  • Former UAW Vice President Joseph Ashton.
  • Former senior UAW official Jeffrey “Paycheck” Pietrzyk.
  • Former UAW Region 5 Director UAW Board member Vance Pearson.
  • Former UAW Midwest CAP President Edward “Nick” Robinson.

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