DETROIT — Dennis Williams, the 11th president of the UAW, who stressed financial discipline and railed against corruption while simultaneously bilking union members out of more than $132,000, was sentenced Tuesday to 21 months in federal prison.
The UAW's president from 2014 to 2018, Williams is the highest-ranking UAW member to be sentenced in a yearslong corruption probe that has netted 15 convictions and put the UAW under a six-year period of government oversight. Williams pleaded guilty in September to embezzlement and spending hundreds of thousands of member dollars on trips to Palm Springs, Calif., golf outings, fancy dinners and other luxuries.
Prosecutors had called for a two-year sentence, while defense attorneys had argued for a reduced sentence of one year and one day. In addition to the prison time, Williams was ordered to one year of supervised release as well as a $10,000 fine.
Williams, 68, appeared before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman via Zoom from San Diego. He apologized to the court but also placed blame on others.
"I stand here before you today with great regret," he said. "I'm more than the actions that brought me before you in this case ... I take full responsibility for my actions, but many of the UAW cases you have before you I knew nothing about."
He said he felt "foolish and embarrassed" when he took his successor, Gary Jones, at his word that certain expenses were above board. Jones has also pleaded guilty to embezzlement and awaits sentencing.
"Former UAW Member and President Dennis Williams has rightfully been sentenced today for his crimes that put his personal and self-interest above that of our members and this union," the UAW said in a statement. "These serious crimes violated the oath of UAW officers and they violated the trust of UAW officers to handle our members' sacred dues money."
Williams last year returned about $56,000 in travel expenses to the union following an internal review of expenditures, and his attorneys said Tuesday he's also repaid the union an additional $76,403 for rental properties, golf, meals, alcohol and cigars. He has also repaid the Internal Revenue Service $15,459 for taxes on those expenses.