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Detroit — Plans for former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones to plead guilty to embezzlement, racketeering and a tax crime have been delayed again during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones was set to plead guilty April 2 but a notice in federal court Wednesday indicated the hearing has been delayed until April 15.

The COVID-19 outbreak initially postponed what would have been a historic week in the ongoing UAW corruption scandal last month. Former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton was scheduled to be sentenced March 17 for his role in a bribery and kickback scandal followed by Jones' plea two days later.

Ashton's sentencing was rescheduled for May 20.

They are the two highest-ranking people charged during a years-long investigation of auto industry corruption. The investigation has led to 13 convictions, so far.

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Jones, 63, is expected to plead guilty to helping embezzle more than $1 million, racketeering and income tax evasion. Jones and other UAW officials spent the embezzled money on private villas in California, expensive dinners, liquor, golf and more, prosecutors said.

Jones is facing two charges, each of which could send him to prison for up to five years. The charges are conspiracy to embezzle union funds and using a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering activity, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by evading income taxes.

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U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announces charges against Gary Jones, former president of the United Auto Workers. The Detroit News

He is accused of helping orchestrate a nine-year embezzlement conspiracy that started in 2010.

Since August, federal agents have raided his home, searched his bank accounts, seized more than $32,000 and portrayed him as a thief who tried to cover up crimes and obstruct investigators, according to court records that identified him by the alias "UAW Official A."

The plea hearing will reveal how much time Jones could spend in prison. His plea agreement will include a recommended sentence and an advisory guideline range, though U.S. District Judge Paul Borman has wide discretion in issuing a prison sentence.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews 

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