DETROIT – Former UAW Region Five Director Vance Pearson is expected to plead guilty to embezzlement charges.
A new charge filed against Pearson accused him of embezzling union funds spent on luxurious items like golf, cigars and clothes. He was charged in an information document, which was a signal of a coming plea deal.
The union claims Pearson filed falsified expense reports, but the federal authorities go a lot further. Pearson is facing embezzlement of union funds, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy, among other charges.
Federal authorities also searched former UAW President Gary Jones’ Canton home last August, as well as Pearson’s St. Louis home and office. They confiscated golf clubs there. A week later, authorities charged Pearson in a $1 million conspiracy.
Authorities said UAW Region Five would hold legitimate annual leadership conferences at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel. Using what they call master accounts, Pearson and other high UAW officials are accused of renting off site villas and billing them through the master accounts.
Authorities said Pearson and others would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at restaurants and at golf resorts where they would take what they pleased from the pro shop. The complaint said the high UAW officials would allegedly spend the month of January, and sometimes February, inside a gated golf community in a rented villa with a pool and hot tub. They would allegedly eat high-end steaks, drink expensive scotch and smoke fine cigars, playing golf and partying -- a winter vacation paid by union dues.
The UAW released this statement Monday, Jan. 6:
“Make no mistake about it. If Vance Pearson misused Union funds to buy personal items for himself and others, and then lied about and hid that conduct from the UAW, he blatantly violated his oath of office and betrayed the trust of all our hard-working members. In November 2019, the UAW International Executive Board filed its own action against Mr. Pearson not just to remove him from his elected position, but taking away his membership in the UAW entirely. While our Union is moving forward, we will never forget the costly lessons from our past. Under the leadership of President Rory Gamble, working tirelessly with the Board, the UAW continues to implement a series of critical reforms necessary to strengthen the union’s financial controls, oversight and its overall accounting system so this type of conduct cannot happen again.”