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Ex-UAW official pleads guilty in training center case

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — A former associate director of the United Auto Workers pleaded guilty to misusing funds that were intended to train and retrain blue-collar workers.

Virdell King, 65, is the second person to plead guilty in a widening federal investigation into improprieties at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit.

This morning, King pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. As part of her agreement with prosecutors, she faces up to 16 months in prison and restitution payments of up to $15,000.

Following her appearance in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor, King and her attorney, John Shea, declined to comment. She had faced a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

According to the agreement, King repeatedly made purchases using a credit card account linked to the training center. Those purchases went toward personal items for UAW officials, as well as for King herself.

“The defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined that conspiracy,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Gorgon. King retired from the UAW in February 2016.

Funding for the training center is provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Prosecutors have alleged that UAW officials, several linked with union contract negotiations, benefited personally from purchases made via the center’s credit cards.

King was a member of the negotiating team when the UAW hammered out contracts with FCA in 2011 and 2015. She was there at the same time as Alphons Iacobelli, former top negotiator with Fiat Chrysler. Iacobelli was indicted in July for allegedly using training center funds to pay for a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, a pair of Mont Blanc pens valued at $37,500 each, and a swimming pool.

In addition, Monica Morgan-Holiefield, the widow of deceased former UAW vice president General Holiefield, faces charges of spending training center money, including $262,000 to pay off a mortgage and $30,000 in airline tickets.

Both Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for a jury trial March 19.

Earlier this month, Jerome Durden, a former financial analyst with FCA, reached his own plea agreement with prosecutors. He allegedly helped funnel more than $4.5 million to union officials. The 61-year-old Rochester Hills resident faces as many as 37 months in prison.

UAW President Dennis Williams previously released a letter to union members denying the transactions between FCA officials and union negotiators had any impact on bargaining.

Judge John Corbett O'Meara set King’s sentencing hearing for Jan. 3, 2018.


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