Joe Ashton, who negotiated the UAW's 2011 contract with General Motors and later became a GM board member, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for money laundering and wire fraud.
"Leaders of the union have to be honorable at all times," U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said.
Ashton had three witnesses speak on his behalf, and Friedman received numerous letters of support for Ashton.
But "people have to know that they have to respect the law no matter who they are," Friedman said. "Sometimes good people do bad things."
Ashton pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud last year.
"I cannot tell you how ashamed and remorseful I am for what I've done," Ashton said at his sentencing hearing. "No apology will change the damage that I have done."
Including Ashton, prosecutors have charged 15 former UAW officials and auto executives in connection with the corruption scandal that centers on the misuse of union funds. All 15 have pleaded guilty. Ashton is the 11th person to be sentenced.
"Today's sentence of former UAW Member Joe Ashton is appropriate," the UAW said in a statement. "Mr. Ashton's crimes defy everything we stand for as a union and demonstrate his lack of respect for the oath of office he took and the rank-and-file members he represented."
Ashton will not report to prison until June because of the coronavirus pandemic. The start of his sentence can be adjusted if there is still a high risk of contracting the virus in June, Friedman said.
Ashton headed the UAW's GM department from 2010 to 2014. He also was on the board of the UAW and GM's jointly run training center. Because of the scandal, GM and the UAW agreed in their 2019 contract to close and sell the training center, though some joint training activities will continue with GM controlling the funding.
After retiring from the union, Ashton represented the UAW's retiree health care trust on the GM board for three years. He resigned in 2017 after being implicated in the corruption investigation.
Ashton conspired with fellow union officials Michael Grimes and Jeffrey Pietrzyk to collect bribes and kickbacks from vendors of UAW memorabilia, prosecutors said in December.
According to the charges against him, Ashton in 2010 persuaded a chiropractor friend in Philadelphia to lend money to a construction company owned by another friend. After the construction company stopped repaying the loan, Ashton created a scheme in which the chiropractor formed a company solely to bid on a contract for 58,000 custom-made UAW watches, and Ashton steered the $4 million order to the chiropractor in exchange for a kickback. The watches were never distributed.
Ashton told the vendor in late 2016 to halt the payments because of the corruption investigation, according to court documents.