Former UAW vice president sentenced to 30 months for taking $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks

Crimes led to closing of UAW-GM training center, US attorney says

Former UAW vice president sentenced in ongoing corruption scandal
Former UAW vice president sentenced in ongoing corruption scandal

DETROIT – Joseph Ashton, former vice president of the UAW’s General Motors Department, was sentenced today to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring with other UAW officials to engage in honest services fraud by taking $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks from a UAW vendor and for conspiring to launder the proceeds of the scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Read: Former VP of UAW’s General Motors Department, Joseph Ashton, pleads guilty in bribery scandal

In December 2019, Ashton, 72, of Ocean View, NJ, pleaded guilty to conspiring with two other high-level UAW officials-Michael Grimes and Jeffrey Pietrzyk-to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

Grimes and Pietryzk have also pleaded guilty. Grimes was sentenced to 28 months in prison and Pietrzyk is awaiting sentencing.

The CHR is supposed to be a center for training UAW workers employed by GM. Ashton was the co-director of the Center for Human Resources.

Ashton, Pietrzyk and Grimes also served on the Executive Board for the Center for Human Resources and they were responsible for approving contracts with the vendors.

Ashton admitted that over the course of the conspiracy, he and the other two UAW officials demanded and accepted bribes and kickbacks from a vendor based in Philadelphia, PA, in exchange for securing or maintaining a contract to provide custom watches to the Center for Human Resources.

Ashton and his UAW co-conspirators demanded kickbacks on the $3.9 million contract for the Center for Human Resources to buy 58,000 watches for all UAW members employed by GM.

Ashton demanded over $250,000 in kickbacks on the watch contract to be distributed between 2013 through 2016. Some of the kickbacks were distributed in the form of checks payable to Ashton which were deposited into his personal bank account.

The majority of the kickbacks were distributed as cash. In 2014, the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources received the 58,000 watches from the vendor.

However, the watches were never distributed to UAW members. Instead, the watches were left sitting in a storage room at the CHR for over five years.

Besides conspiring with other UAW officials and vendors to the UAW, Ashton also admitted that he conspired to launder the proceeds of the kickback scheme by using various methods to conceal and disguise the bribes and kickbacks through a lengthy and complicated series of financial transactions.

Read more: UAW president steps down as GM sues rival over union bribery

Ashton is one of 15 defendants convicted in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials by FCA executives and corruption within the UAW itself.

The following individuals have already pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and have been sentenced: former FCA Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli (66 months in prison), former FCA Financial Analyst Jerome Durden (15 months in prison), former Director of FCA’s Employee Relations Department Michael Brown (12 months in prison), former senior UAW officials Virdell King (60 days in prison), Keith Mickens (12 months in prison), Nancy A. Johnson (12 months in prison), Monica Morgan, the widow of UAW Vice President General Holiefield (18 months in prison), former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell (15 months in prison), and former senior UAW official Michael Grimes (28 months).

In addition, the following UAW officials have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing: former UAW President Gary Jones, former senior UAW official Jeffrey “Paycheck” Pietrzyk, former UAW Region 5 Director and UAW Board member Vance Pearson, former UAW Midwest CAP President Edward “Nick” Robinson, and former UAW President Dennis Williams.

More: UAW executive board files article 31 charges to expel former officers and staff convicted of criminal, unethical conduct

“Joseph Ashton illegally used his power and influence to benefit himself, and he caused long-lasting damage to the hardworking members of the UAW. Ashton wasted almost $4 million that could have been used to train UAW members, and his crimes led to the closing of the UAW-GM training center and the loss of many training center jobs. Ashton’s greed caused irreparable damage to the trust UAW members have in their leaders who are supposed to represent their best interests,” stated Schneider.

The UAW also issued a statement on the court appearance and sentencing of Ashton.

“Today’s sentence of former UAW Member Joe Ashton is appropriate. 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.

Under the leadership of UAW President Rory L. Gamble and our International Executive Board, the UAW continues to focus on comprehensively reviewing and strengthening our union’s financial controls and accounting oversight, and have embraced the implementation of a myriad of new policies and controls to restore the full faith and trust of our more than 400,000 members across the country, ” the UAW statement read.


About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.