Ex-UAW official freed on bond in $4.5 million auto industry scandal
Detroit – Former UAW labor executive Virdell King was released on $10,000 unsecured bond Tuesday, four days after being charged with conspiring to raid a training fund for blue-collar workers.
King, 65, of Detroit made a brief appearance Tuesday in federal court and is expected to return soon to plead guilty for her role in a widening $4.5 million conspiracy involving two pillars of the auto industry, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the United Auto Workers.
High-ranking leaders of Fiat Chrysler and the UAW conspired to raid a multimillion fund created for training blue-collar workers, prosecutors allege.
King stood mute to charges that could send her to federal prison for up to five years.
King was the first black woman to head a local UAW-Chrysler union and later served on the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center’s governing board. She was charged Friday with pocketing thousands of dollars worth of illegal payments and is expected to help the government prosecute others involved in the scandal.
The case against King emerged three weeks after a federal grand jury indicted former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield. The auto executive and the widow are accused of taking millions in training-center funds and spending the money on a Ferrari 458 Spider; leasing a private jet; buying two limited-edition solid-gold Mont Blanc fountain pens that cost $37,500 apiece and paying off a $262,000 mortgage.
Iacobelli sanctioned the use of training center cards for personal expenses in a bid to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy,” according to a court filing that raises questions about the sanctity of earlier labor deals.
The government alleges several people, including King, conspired to violate a federal labor law designed to combat corruption of the collective bargaining process.
King’s arraignment came five days after The Detroit News reported that King used a training center credit card to buy a $2,180 shotgun as a birthday present for UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell.
The shotgun was among more than $40,000 in personal purchases King is accused of making with training center credit cards from 2012 to 2015.
King bought items for herself and other senior UAW officials, prosecutors said. The purchases included golf equipment, luggage, and concert and theme-park tickets — all of which were purchased with training center funds.
The News previously reported that King was told to buy the shotgun by Jewell’s top administrative assistant, Nancy Johnson, in August 2015, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Johnson has not been charged with a crime. She declined to comment to The News.
King, who was paid $128,930 in 2015, the year before she retired, was charged in a criminal “information,” which means a guilty plea is expected in coming days.
The News first reported that King was a potential target July 31 amid questions about her personal use of a training center credit card. King was part of the UAW-Chrysler bargaining teams in both 2011 and 2015 and she spent years on the training center’s board.
If convicted of crimes that could send them to federal prison for up to five years, Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield risk losing their homes to the government. A trial date for the two has been scheduled for Sept. 25.
Former Fiat Chrysler financial analyst Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester Hills, struck a plea deal last week and is expected to cooperate with prosecutors.