Disgraced UAW official spared prison after helping feds

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal prosecutors Friday started rewarding high-ranking leaders of the United Auto Workers for cooperating with an ongoing bribery investigation of the U.S. auto industry.

Virdell King

Virdell King, a former UAW official who betrayed rank-and-file workers by pocketing as much as $15,000 in bribes from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives during a conspiracy to keep labor leaders" fat, dumb and happy," was spared going to federal prison Friday.

King, 67, was sentenced to 60 days in prison in November but remained free because she and other former UAW and Fiat Chrysler officials continued to cooperate with a corruption investigation that has produced eight convictions and led to a shakeup of the top ranks of the Detroit-based auto industry.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman amended King's sentence to one day in prison, which she already has served. She was supposed to report to prison next week.

There was no justification for the reduced sentence and no comment from federal prosecutors.

“This is a good outcome for her,” King’s defense lawyer John Shea said in an interview Friday. “She earned it and deserved it.”

The extent of her cooperation and the government's argument for a reduced sentence is sealed in federal court, Shea said.

The move came four days after former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for accepting as much as $95,000 in bribes from Fiat Chrysler executives.

The bribes included a $2,182 Italian-made shotgun, $8,927 for a three-bedroom villa with a private pool and hot tub in Palm Springs, California, and a $25,065 "decadent" party with strolling models lighting labor leaders' cigars and wine bottles featuring Jewell's name on the label.

King used a training center credit card to buy the shotgun for Jewell as a birthday present, two sources told The News. Jewell's top administrative assistant, Nancy Adams Johnson, told King to buy the firearm for the UAW vice president, one of the sources said.

Of eight people convicted in the corruption scandal, only two have started serving sentences. They are former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield.

Four others convicted in the scandal were sentenced last year but have not reported to prison due to their ongoing cooperation. They are:

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell also used member dues to pay for another three-bedroom villa with a private pool in Palm Springs.

• Former Fiat Chrysler financial analyst Jerome Durden was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for filing misleading tax returns that concealed the labor conspiracy and helping steer more than $386,400 to Holiefield's phony charity, the Leave the Light On Foundation.

• Adams Johnson, who implicated former UAW President Dennis Williams and others in a corruption investigation involving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. She was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison. She accepted thousands of dollars in illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler and spent the money on $1,100 Christian Louboutin shoes, private accommodations, golf resorts and lavish meals, according to the government. She also funneled tens of thousands of dollars of illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler to other senior UAW officials. 

• Former UAW official Keith Mickens was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Mickens approved more than $700,000 in illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler to Holiefield and Morgan-Holiefield.

• Michael Brown, a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive who helped run the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison for helping cover up the conspiracy. 

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider on Monday signaled the investigation, which has widened to include training centers jointly run by the UAW, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., is not finished.

"It's an ongoing investigation and we're not done," Schneider said. "We will continue to work on this until we're confident that we have leadership in the UAW that represents the men and women of the union and does what they're supposed to do."


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