Former UAW official from Macomb Township pleads guilty to conspiracy with Fiat Chrysler executives

Nancy Johnson becomes 7th person to plead guilty in scheme

Nancy Johnson is accused in a conspiracy for UAW officials to accept money from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. (WDIV)

MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The former second-highest official in the UAW's Chrysler Department pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring with other UAW officials and Fiat Chrysler executives to make illegal payments to union officials, U.S. attorney Matthew Schneider said.

Nancy A. Johnson, 57, of Macomb Township, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Labor Management Relations Act by accepting and arranging illegal payments from FCA executives to high-level UAW officials from 2014 through 2016.

After UAW Vice President General Holiefield retired in 2014, Johnson and other UAW officials started running the UAW's Chrysler Department, officials said.

During her plea hearing, Johnson admitted to participating in a conspiracy that existed from at least 2009 through 2016. FCA executives conspired with FCA, UAW officials and the UAW to funnel money and "things of value" worth tens of thousands of dollars from FCA to UAW officials, officials said.

The "things of value" included personal travel, golf resort fees, lavish meals and parties, limousine services, designer clothing, designer shoes, golf equipment, electronics and an Italian shotgun, Schneider said.

“Today’s conviction of yet another senior UAW official further exposes the dishonorable scheme between UAW officials and Fiat Chrysler executives to corrupt the collective bargaining process at the expense of rank and file union members,” Schneider said. “The conviction reveals that part of this
scheme involved the wrongful use of UAW funds for extravagant meals, entertainment,
golf, and travel for little, if any, union-business purpose.” 

Johnson's guilty plea indicated that a high-level UAW official directed other UAW officials to use money from automobile manufacturing companies through joint UAW training centers to pay for travel, lavish meals and other entertainment costs, officials said.

The directive was issued to reduce costs to the UAW budget from such expenditures because the UAW budget was under pressure, officials said.

Johnson's plea also stated that from 2014 to 2016 in Palm Springs, California, high-level UAW officials used UAW funds to pay for extravagant meals, premium liquor, multimonth stays at condominiums and multiple rounds of golf for little or no legitimate union business or labor management purposes.

“Nancy Johnson held a high-level position in the UAW and was entrusted to negotiate and implement contracts for the UAW union members she served. Instead, Johnson defrauded the membership by illegally obtaining items worth thousands of dollars, including jewelry, clothing, and other personal items, knowing that FCA was paying the bill. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate corrupt union officials who violate their duty to the members they represent for personal gain,” said James Vanderberg, special agent in charge of the Chicago Region for the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

Johnson's plea also indicated that from 2014 to 2016, 100 percent of the UAW salaries of a large number of UAW officials and employees was paid for by FCA through the NTC.

She said the salaries were paid even though senior UAW officials and FCA executives knew the employees assigned to the NTC spent most of their work time performing tasks for the UAW, reported to the UAW and enforced FCA's compliance on behalf of the union and not for the benefit of FCA or the NTC.

“Protecting members against corruption perpetrated by their union leaders is critical to the mission of OLMS,” said Thomas Murray, acting district director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards of the Detroit-Milwaukee District Office. “We will continue to work cooperatively with our law enforcement partners to ensure that anyone who abuses their union position for personal financial gain will be brought to justice.”

Johnson is the seventh person to plead guilty in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs involving UAW officials and FCA executives.

Former FCA VP for employee relations Alphons Iacobelli, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden, former director of FCA's employee relations department Michael Brown, former senior UAW officials Virdell King and Keith Mickens and Monica Morgan, the widow of Holiefield, have pleaded guilty in the scheme.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.