FCA-UAW scandal figure unloaded Ferrari amid FBI probe

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — The $365,000 sports car former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive Alphons Iacobelli is accused of buying with cash siphoned from a UAW training center was dumped within days of prosecutors signaling his involvement in a $4.5 million corruption scandal.

The 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider convertible with an “IACOBLI” vanity plate was sold in late September 2015 for $73,000 less than Iacobelli paid a year earlier, state vehicle records show. The sale happened six days after prosecutors filed paperwork revealing he was embroiled in a fraud and money laundering investigation.

Former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli unloaded the 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider amid an FBI investigation into the exotic sports car purchase, records show.

State records chronicle the provenance of the most expensive item Iacobelli is accused of buying with money taken from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. The documents also help explain why federal prosecutors have not seized the red roadster.

Federal search warrants are sealed and it is unclear whether FBI agents seized cash from Iacobelli equal to the purchase price of the Ferrari.

So far, investigators have seized at least $292,000 from others involved in the case and two solid-gold, bejeweled Montblanc fountain pens that cost $35,700 each. Iacobelli bought the pens with money that was supposed to help train UAW blue-collar workers, prosecutors say.

The Ferrari and the fountain pens are polar opposites when it comes to illicit assets that can be easily hidden and transferred without leaving a long paper trail, said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

“This may well be a sign of the hubris involved — that someone didn’t think they were going to get caught and maybe thought they weren’t doing anything wrong,” Henning said. “That’s the mental gymnastics people go through. They don’t think they did anything wrong and that they’re not a criminal.”

Iacobelli’s lawyer declined to comment.

The Ferrari is among high-profile purchases listed in a federal indictment alleging corruption between officials at one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers.

Iacobelli, 58, a former Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator from Rochester Hills, and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, were indicted by a federal grand jury July 26.

Fiat Chrysler officials said they fired Iacobelli after they learned of the federal investigation in June 2015. Seven months later, Iacobelli was hired by GM as executive director of labor relations, but he was suspended after being indicted in July.

The pen and Ferrari purchases and other alleged wrongdoing could land Iacobelli in a federal prison for five years.

The pens were part of what prosecutors describe as a shopping spree of more than $1 million by Iacobelli, bankrolled with money that was supposed to benefit UAW workers.

More than $403,000 was spent paying Iacobelli’s personal credit card expenses, and he used more than $350,000 to buy the Ferrari, according to the indictment.

Alphons Iacobelli’s home in Rochester Hills

Another $96,000 in training center funds paid for a pool at Iacobelli’s mansion, an outdoor kitchen, and spa.

Prosecutors have filed paperwork to seize Iacobelli’s 6,815-square-foot mansion upon conviction, arguing the home is tied to fraud and money laundering.

The indictment accuses Iacobelli, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden and other unnamed co-conspirators of using the training center’s bank accounts and credit cards to funnel payoffs to Holiefield and other senior UAW officials.

Iacobelli and others created a liberal spending policy to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy,” according to the indictment.

The government alleges Iacobelli, Morgan, and others conspired to violate a federal labor law designed to combat corruption of the collective bargaining process.

The Montblanc pens honoring President Abraham Lincoln feature 18-karat gold fittings, a blue sapphire embedded in the clip, a mother-of-pearl cap ringed by three diamonds and an 18-karat gold tip. Only 50 were made worldwide. Iacobelli bought two, prosecutors allege.

Between October 2013 and September 2014, Iacobelli and others transferred more than $350,000 from the training center to buy the Ferrari, prosecutors said.

Iacobelli bought the used Ferrari from a dealership in Naples, Florida, in May 2014. At the time, the Ferrari had 1,720 miles on the odometer.

Boasting 570 horsepower, the 4.5L V-8 Ferrari, painted Rosso Corsa red, has beige leather seats and red contrast stitching and a top speed of 199 mph.

The purchase price Iacobelli paid, including tax: $365,482.

Iacobelli paid $209,452 cash for the Ferrari and financed the rest, according to the bill of sale.

The deal left Iacobelli with a $2,816 monthly car payment.

He transferred the car to Michigan and slapped the “IACOBLI” vanity plate on the coupe.

Iacobelli didn’t own the Ferrari for long.

By September 2015, sixteen months after he bought the Ferrari, the FBI had launched a corruption investigation of training center board members, including Iacobelli. So far, four people have been charged with crimes.

On Sept. 17, 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed an affidavit in Oakland County arguing Iacobelli’s home could be subject to forfeiture because the residence was linked to fraud and money laundering.

If Iacobelli is convicted of charges that include conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, the government could sell the homes and give the money to the union training center, Henning said.

Six days after the forfeiture filing, the exotic sports car was sold through Cauley Ferrari on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township, according to the Michigan secretary of state.

Fenton businessman Brian Mortz bought the Ferrari for $292,150 — or $73,332 less than Iacobelli paid a year earlier, state records show.

The sale was finalized Sept. 23, 2015.

“It’s a beautiful car,” Mortz, 45, told The News on Tuesday. “It drives nice. No problems whatsoever.”

Mortz did not know Iacobelli and was unaware until Tuesday that the Ferrari factored into an FBI investigation and indictment.

“That’s quite an interesting story,” Mortz said. “I didn’t know who the previous owner was.”

Mortz said he has not been approached by FBI agents.

“The buyer has an innocent owner defense,” Henning said. “Assuming the person can establish it was a bona fide arms-length transaction, the government can’t get the car. They can only go after the proceeds or, if there is a conviction, the equivalent of the car’s value from any other asset (Iacobelli) has.”

Mortz is in the process of unloading the Ferrari.

On Tuesday, the Ferrari was on its way to a Chicago dealership.

“I’m trading it in on a Lamborghini,” Mortz said. “An Aventador. Metallic gray.”

Twitter: @robertsnellnews