Symbol of Fiat Chrysler-UAW scandal could soon hit auction block

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli was Chrysler's chief labor negotiator and indicted in a scheme to keep center officials “fat, dumb and happy,” according to the indictment. He's also accused of siphoning more than $1 million in training center funds that were allegedly spent on a $365,000 Ferrari, two $35,700 fountain pens, a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his Rochester Hills mansion.

Detroit — A rare, $36,000 jewel-encrusted fountain pen that served as the defining symbol of a multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler could soon hit the auction block.

The Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Thursday to have the pen forfeited to the government, arguing that convicted Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli purchased two of the Montblanc pens with almost $76,000 embezzled from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.

The filing filled in the investigative backstory about how Iacobelli obtained the pens and confirm that Iacobelli kept one and gave the other to a neighbor. 

Feds seized the neighbor's pen last year and now prosecutors want the blingy bauble forfeited to the government.

Iacobelli was not shy about letting people know about the pens.

The Montblanc pens 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.

A former co-worker said "Iacobelli bragged to her about a Montblanc pen that he carried in his shirt pocket costing $25,000," Assistant U.S. Attorney Adriana Dydell wrote in the filing Thursday. 

If the government succeeds in having the pen forfeited, the collector's item could be auctioned to the highest bidder or sold privately.

The government filed the request to have the pen forfeited two weeks after Iacobelli, 59, of Rochester Hills, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in federal prison for his role in the scandal.

Iacobelli's lawyer declined comment.

The government filing confirms details first reported by The News last year in the early days of a prosecution that has led to seven convictions, reshaped the top ranks of the auto industry as FBI agents investigate all three Detroit automakers, and raised questions about the conduct of the late Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The Montblanc "Signatures for Freedom" pen was sold in 2013 as part of a limited series honoring President Abraham Lincoln and cost $35,700 each — or $7,600 more than the median household income in Detroit.

Montblanc produced only 50 pens commemorating President Abe Lincoln. Former Alphons Iacobelli bought two with money embezzled from the UAW-Fiat Chrysler National Training Center, according to the government.

The pen celebrating the life of “Honest Abe” was one in a series of Montblanc pens honoring presidents, including George Washington and John F. Kennedy.

The black pen features solid, 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 engraved with 13 stars.

The pens are so rare, only 50 were available worldwide.

According to federal prosecutors, Iacobelli bought two — one for himself and one for a neighbor, a podiatrist who gave the pen to the government last year.

Federal agents seized the $35,700 pen from one of Alphons Iacobelli's neighbors, a podiatrist.

The other pen was seized by investigators from Iacobelli’s $1.3 million Rochester Hills mansion July 26, 2017, the day the former Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, were indicted by a federal grand jury. 

Alphons Iacobelli’s home in Rochester Hills

It is unclear what happened to the pen seized from Iacobelli's house but it is believed that the government sold the writing instrument.

Iacobelli had to plan ahead to buy the limited-edition Montblanc pens with training center funds, prosecutors said

Iacobelli and others transferred $35,000 from the training center for a down payment on the pens in September 2012, according to prosecutors. In February 2013, a $40,684 check covered the balance owed to Montblanc, which produced the pens in Germany.

Iacobelli received the pens during a rare private showing at the Montblanc store at Somerset Collection mall in Troy, according to a source familiar with the purchase. The store was closed to the public for the intimate event.

Normally, special edition pens are only sold through flagship Montblanc stores but since Iacobelli made a down payment, the pens were shipped to Michigan, the source said.

Iacobelli told a former co-worker that one of the pens was a gift from a neighbor, a podiatrist. Investigators searched public records and found the podiatrist, who told agents he ordered the pen but Iacobelli paid for the writing instruments.

On Aug. 23, 2017, agents seized the second pen from the neighbor’s podiatry office in Macomb County.

Iacobelli also used $340,000 in training center funds to purchase a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider, the government claimed. After he obtained the car, Iacobelli slapped an “IACOBLI” vanity plate on the convertible.

Iacobelli unloaded the cherry red roadster for a $73,000 loss in September 2015 within days of prosecutors signaling his involvement in the $4.5 million corruption scandal.

Six months later, FBI agents tracked down some of the money.

Search warrant documents obtained by The Detroit News reveal that in March 2016, agents seized $354,000.

The $354,000 was a check given to the U.S. Marshals Service by the law firm Butzel Long. That’s the same firm that employs Iacobelli’s defense lawyer, David DuMouchel. 

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