DETROIT — Edward Robinson, a top aide to former UAW President Gary Jones, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to conspiring to embezzle more than $1 million in union funds and conspiring to defraud the U.S.
Robinson, who was charged in October, agreed to cooperate in the federal government's investigation, which also targets Jones and his predecessor, Dennis Williams. Coupled with the cooperation of former UAW Regional Director Vance Pearson secured last month, the Robinson plea indicates prosecutors could be closing in on the two former union leaders, although neither has been charged with a crime.
Robinson, 72, will be back in court on June 30 for sentencing. He faces up to five years in prison, although as part of the plea agreement prosecutors recommened his sentence be between 30-37 months. It could be further reduced if he provides significant help in their ongoing probe.
He also has been ordered to pay up to $42,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Our office will never tolerate the abuse of union funds for the benefit of corrupt union officials,” said United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “We will continue our work until the men and women of the UAW have confidence that their union leadership is serving and advancing their interests — instead of the personal interests of union bosses.”
Robinson admitted Monday in the plea deal that he and six others embezzled more than $1.5 million and filed false expense reports to conceal their wrongdoing. Prosecutors allege that Robinson "made significant purchases of high-end liquor, cigars, wine, golf apparel, golf clubs and other lavish expenses at the direction of and for senior UAW officials."
He declined comment following the Monday hearing, although his lawyer, James Martin, told reporters “He’s working very hard to rectify the wrongs he’s made and we’re well on our way there.”
In a statement, the UAW said that Robinson “violated his oath of office and betrayed the trust of our hard-working members,” noting the numerous reform efforts instituted by President Rory Gamble in a bid to clean up the UAW from within and avoid potential government oversight.
All 13 people charged in connection with the scandal so far have now pleaded guilty.
The October complaint against Robinson included a number of potentially incriminating details about a man referred to as "UAW Official A," whom The Detroit News has identified as Jones.