DETROIT -- A UAW vice president during one of the most tumultuous periods for auto workers in history, General Holiefield looked to be an intimidating negotiator who also started a charity to help struggling children.
But while he was locking horns with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at the bargaining table, the now-deceased Holiefield and his girlfriend, a prominent Detroit photographer whom he later married in Italy, were living luxuriously with money that was supposed to help train workers, federal authorities said Wednesday. Some of the money was allegedly funneled through Holiefield's charity, the Leave the Light on Foundation.
Holiefield died in 2015, but his widow, Monica Morgan, was named in an indictment that accuses the couple of receiving $1.2 million over the course of at least five years from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit.
The grand jury charged that FCA's former labor relations chief, Al Iacobelli, diverted the money to Holiefield and Morgan, who used it to buy designer clothing and fly first-class. In 2014, they got a check from the training center to pay off the $262,220 balance on their mortgage.
The charges sully what was already a spotty legacy for Holiefield, who helped navigate the union's Chrysler workforce through the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy but was also a staunch supporter of changes to work schedules that angered many workers.
Holiefield, who was elected to two four-year terms as a UAW vice president, died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. He joined the union as an assembly-line worker in 1973 and went on to lead the union's negotiations with Chrysler in 2007 and 2011. He also persuaded workers to accept concessions in 2009 just ahead of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing.
He was credited by many within the UAW and Chrysler for helping to keep the automaker afloat during the bankruptcy.
"Without General's leadership, there wouldn't be a Chrysler today," former UAW President Bob King said in a 2013 statement.
But his final years in office were chaotic. Holiefield angered many FCA workers toward the end of his tenure with strong support for so-called alternative work schedules. The schedules, which the UAW won changes to in 2015, put workers on a four-day work week consisting of 10-hour days that often were late at night.
Shooting at home
On Dec. 30, 2013, he accidentally shot his wife with a .45-caliber pistol that he had been cleaning at the time in their house. Holiefield took a leave of absence from the union in January 2014, just five months before he was set to retire, after pleading no contest to a charge of reckless use of a firearm.
When the official retirement date arrived in June, Iacobelli allegedly authorized paying off Holiefield's house with FCA funds.
According to the indictment, Morgan used three of her own businesses to hide Iacobelli's payments and is charged with failing to report them.
The indictment says King confronted Holiefield in 2011 about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on novelty items for the training center from his then-girlfriend's company, reportedly telling both Iacobelli and Holiefield that they could "go to jail." After King ordered Holiefield to stop using Morgan as a vendor, the couple established a new company masking Morgan's affiliation, and bought trinkets from that business instead.