DETROIT — Federal prosecutors Thursday charged Gary Jones with stealing more than $1 million from the UAW membership he pledged to serve as president, an unprecedented abuse-of-power allegation for a union that has fought for workers’ rights throughout its 84-year-history.
Jones becomes the 14th person charged in connection with the years-long corruption probe that has uncovered a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal union funds and spend them on expensive champagne, cigars, golf clubs and other luxuries. The scandal has snared two retired vice presidents in addition to a onetime top negotiator at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
“Instead of that cash and property going to help the men and women of the union, Mr. Jones spent it on his own personal enjoyment and on the whims of other high ranking union officials,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a press conference, noting Jones and others bought “items that workers of the UAW could scarcely afford.”
Jones was charged in a criminal information, indicating that he is expected to plead guilty. Schneider said prosecutors were having productive discussions with Jones’ attorney but did not provide an arraignment date. Jones’ lawyer J. Bruce Maffeo could not be reached for comment.
Schneider on Thursday chastised the union’s current leadership, saying he “was not impressed” with recent reform efforts and said he remained unsatisfied with the union’s level of cooperation in the ongoing scandal.
Schneider wouldn’t say whether or not any current members of the union’s International Executive Board were being investigated, and said his office could not discount a potential federal takeover of the UAW, an option he has said for months remained a possibility.
“It’s not the people working the jobs, it’s the leadership,” Schneider said. “That is a real indicator there’s a larger problem here, and that’s why we haven’t taken government oversight off the table. That could be appropriate when you have a situation where it’s embedded, systemic, long-term corruption.”
Current UAW President Rory Gamble has attempted to implement a number of financial and ethical reforms to stave off government oversight, but Schneider said much more could be done.
“We have to talk about real reforms, genuine reforms,” he said. “We’re not really seeing that right now.”
In a statement, the union said: “All UAW members including the UAW leadership are and should be angry about the charges of former UAW member Gary Jones and his alleged actions. This is a violation of trust, a violation of the sacred management of union dues, and goes against everything we believe in as a Union. Jones and all who betrayed the trust of our union should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, with no exceptions."
The union's statement said that nobody referred to in the Jones case, "whether by name or by alias, is a current UAW official, board member, or employee."