UAW leader helped boss buy a pool in widespread scandal

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A former United Auto Workers leader faces more than two years in federal prison after admitting Thursday he bought more than $7,000 worth of personal items with money that was supposed to help train blue-collar workers and used more money to help the late union Vice President General Holiefield buy a pool.

Keith Mickens, 64, of Clarkston struck a plea deal Thursday, three weeks after being charged in a widening conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, a five-year felony. The law prohibits employers or those working for them from paying, lending or delivering money or other valuables to officers or employees of labor organizations — and from labor leaders from accepting such items.

The charge is the latest in a conspiracy that has led to a shakeup at the highest levels of the U.S. auto industry and which raised questions about the sanctity of labor negotiations that determine pay, benefits and working conditions for thousands of workers. Seven people have been charged so far.

The charge, like the others, is part of a scandal involving UAW training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers. Mickens, who served on the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, used the facility’s credit cards to buy luggage, electronics, designer clothes and golf equipment.

“I abused the credit cards that were provided to us by the National Training Center,” Mickens told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.

Prosecutors want Mickens to spend 24-30 months in federal prison when sentenced Aug. 6 and pay an undetermined amount of restitution. He also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

“Today’s conviction is the latest in a string of senior UAW officials who took secret and prohibited payments from the company they were supposed to be negotiating against,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “The hard-working rank and file members of the UAW deserve better from those who represent their interests.”

Mickens’ lawyer, Robert Sheehan, declined comment.

Mickens served as administrative assistant to Holiefield and, from 2010 to 2014, was among senior UAW officials responsible for administering collective bargaining agreements between Fiat Chrysler and the union. Mickens left the UAW in 2015.

before leaving the union in 2015. His guilty plea Thursday involved helping funnel money to Holiefield and his wife, Monica Morgan-Holiefield, who used the money to install a pool at her Harrison Township home.

Mickens was accused of conspiring with Alphons Iacobelli, a former Fiat Chrysler labor executive, Holiefield and others from 2010 until 2015.

Iacobelli, former Fiat Chrysler analyst Jerome Durden and others used the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center bank accounts and credit cards to hide payments to Mickens and others, including former senior UAW official Virdell King, according to the government.

Prosecutors allege that Iacobelli and other UAW-Chrysler training center officials created a liberal spending policy to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy.”

Holiefield and his wife were deeply involved in the conspiracy, according to Mickens’ plea deal.

In 2011, Holiefield selected his wife’s photography company and a second related firm as training center vendors.

During the next two years, Holiefield and his wife created phony invoices and demanded payment from the training center for goods and services that were never provided.

Holiefield directed Mickens to provide the checks to Morgan-Holiefield, according to the plea deal.

One $13,500 check was used to help pay for the installation of a swimming pool at the couple’s home in July 2013.

Mickens also personally benefited.

From 2012 to 2014, he used the training center’s credit card to buy more than $2,700 worth of items at Best Buy.

He also spent more than $5,000 on clothes, luggage, golf equipment and more items for himself and senior UAW officials.

In January 2016, Fiat Chrysler offered to give Mickens $25,000 in a “one-time, non-precedent setting, incentivized retirement program.”

The deal came with a string attached.

“FCA informed Keith Mickens that it would not pay him the $25,000 if FCA was ‘unable to avoid public disclosure’ of the terms of what FCA claimed was a ‘settlement agreement,’” according to the plea deal.

Mickens had to agree in writing he would not disclose information about the payment to the media or other third parties.

Mickens is the fifth person to strike a plea deal in the case.

¦Iacobelli faces up to eight years in prison and could be ordered to pay more than $835,000 in restitution.

¦Morgan-Holiefield pleaded guilty to a tax crime and could spend more than two years in prison.

¦Durden, who prosecutors say helped transfer millions of dollars in training center funds to Holiefield, Morgan-Holiefield and Iacobelli, faces up to 37 months in prison and is expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

¦King admitted misusing funds that were intended to train and retrain blue-collar workers. She faces up to 16 months in prison and is expected to cooperate with the investigation.

Former Fiat Chrysler executive Michael Brown was charged Wednesday with lying to a federal grand jury and is expected to plead guilty.

Former UAW labor negotiator Nancy Adams Johnson was charged last month. She received tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payments and benefits from Fiat Chrysler during the alleged conspiracy, including $1,100 designer shoes, first-class flights to California, resort stays and limousine rides, according to federal prosecutors.

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Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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