UAW boss gets prison break for helping feds probe auto corruption

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A federal judge Friday shaved seven months off the prison sentence of a former United Auto Workers leader who is cooperating with an ongoing corruption investigation of former union President Dennis Williams and the U.S. auto industry.

Nancy Adams Johnson

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman slashed the one-year sentence of former UAW official Nancy Adams Johnson to five months, according to an amended judgment filed in federal court.

The move comes one day after prosecutors filed a new criminal case implicating Williams and UAW President Gary Jones in an alleged conspiracy to embezzle and steal more than $1 million from the union. Sources told The Detroit News that Williams and Jones are unnamed union officials accused in the federal criminal case of helping orchestrate a years-long conspiracy that involved embezzling member dues and spending the money on personal luxuries.

Prosecutors have built the ongoing investigation, in part, thanks to cooperation from Adams Johnson, 58, of Macomb Township, who is emerging as a pivotal figure in a years-long probe that has led to charges against 10 people and nine convictions.

UAW President Gary Jones, left, and former President Dennis Williams.

Adams Johnson served as the top administrative assistant to convicted UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell.

She pleaded guilty in July 2018 and admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler and spending the money on $1,100 Christian Louboutin shoes, private accommodations, golf resorts and lavish meals, according to the government. She also funneled tens of thousands of dollars of illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler to other senior UAW officials.

In December, she was ordered to serve a year in prison but did not start serving the sentence because of her ongoing cooperation.

She told federal prosecutors that Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals and entertainment. Adams Johnson told investigators Williams made the directive to relieve pressure on the union’s budget, The News exclusively reported last year. Williams was the union's president from 2014 until mid-June 2018.

Lavish travel expenses in Palm Springs, California, comprise the bulk of the criminal case filed Thursday against Vance Pearson, who heads a UAW regional office in Missouri.

Nancy Adams Johnson, left, and Norwood Jewel

The Pearson case alleges a pattern of corruption and illegal spending by union bosses who spent more than $1 million of member dues in Palm Springs.

The illegal expenses include private poolside villas, steakhouse dinners, 107 rounds of golf, golf gear, cigars and $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, according to federal court records.

Adams Johnson has benefited the most among three people convicted in the scandal whose sentences were later reduced by Borman after cooperating with investigators.

Former UAW official Keith Mickens cooperated and saw his year-long sentence reduced by four months. Former union leader Virdell King was sentenced to 60 days behind bars but Borman last month spared her from reporting to prison.

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