A former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV financial analyst who allegedly helped siphon more than $1 million in blue-collar worker training funds including paying for new carpeting at his home was granted bond Friday just days before he is scheduled for a plea hearing in the case.
Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester is one of three charged in an indictment unsealed last week that alleges more than $1 million in UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds intended for worker training instead were spent by Fiat Chrysler and union leaders on personal luxuries. He is slated to appear Tuesday for a plea hearing in federal court in Ann Arbor.
Durden stood mute in federal court in Detroit on the charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., which carries up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. He also stood mute on a charge of failure to file a tax return, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
Magistrate Judge David R. Grand entered a not guilty plea on Durden’s behalf. He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond by Grand and must turn in his passport by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Durden was controller of the training center between 2008 and 2015 and was secretary of the center’s Joint Activities Board. He was employed by Fiat Chrysler as a member of the company’s corporate accounting department. Fiat Chrysler said that after it learned about the allegations in June 2015, it fired Durden.
Durden’s lawyer, Judith S. Gracey, declined comment on Friday.
A Sept. 25 trial date has been set for a former Fiat Chrysler executive and the widow of a former UAW vice president also charged in the case.
Alphons Iacobelli, 57, of Rochester Hills and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, 54, of Harrison Township are scheduled to appear Sept. 25 before U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara in Ann Arbor. Iacobelli, who is alleged to have pocketed training funds to pay for a new Ferrari, two solid-gold Mont Blanc pens and to install a pool and outdoor kitchen at his home, was arraigned Tuesday in federal court in Detroit. A magistrate judge issued a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Iacobelli was fired by Fiat Chrysler in June 2015 as vice president of employee relations and was hired by General Motors Co. in January 2016 as executive director of labor relations. GM has declined to comment on Iacobelli’s employment status.
Morgan-Holiefield, the widow of the late General Holiefield, former UAW vice president in charge of the Chrysler department who died in 2015, is alleged to have received some $30,000 in airline tickets and had the $262,000 mortgage on her and Holiefield’s home paid off using the training center funds. She was arraigned Monday and a magistrate judge also issued a not guilty plea on her behalf. Both Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield are out on bond.
Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield are charged with criminal violations of the Labor Management Relations Act, which prohibits employers or those working for them from paying, lending or delivering money or other valuables to officers or employees of labor organizations — and from labor leaders from accepting such items. Iacobelli also is charged with tax violations.
Durden is alleged to have helped transfer more than $1 million in training center funds to Holiefield, Morgan-Holiefield and Iacobelli who used the funds on personal luxuries. Some of the money allegedly was siphoned through the Leave the Light on Foundation, a nonprofit started by Holiefield with a mission to aid children.
Authorities say payments came from a bank account and credit cards from the training center. Durden was one of the people who controlled the finances and spending at the center. Durden allegedly also personally collected credit card statements for Holiefield and other UAW officials at the training center offices.
Durden was paid $147,818 by FCA for his work in 2013, according to court records. He allegedly received $4,300 from the training center which he used to pay for and install carpeting in his Rochester Hills home, according court records.