Feds prepared to seize FCA scandal figures’ homes
Detroit — Federal prosecutors are prepared to seize the homes of two figures in the Fiat Chrysler-UAW scandal, including a $1.3 million mansion, because the homes are tied to fraud and money laundering, according to county records that help pinpoint the roots of an ongoing corruption investigation.
Former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli’s 6,815-square-foot mansion in Rochester Hills and the home of Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of ex-United Auto Workers Vice President General Holiefield, could be subject to forfeiture because prosecutors allege they conspired in a scheme that siphoned millions of dollars in training funds earmarked for blue-collar workers.
Affidavits filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Aouate mean the government could end up owning two symbols of greed listed in a 42-page indictment involving one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the UAW.
The indictment alleges Iacobelli spent more than $1 million in union funds on luxury items, including his house, pool, outdoor spa and kitchen, a $350,000-plus Ferrari 458 Spider and two limited-edition, solid-gold Mont Blanc fountain pens that cost $37,500 each.
Prosecutors also say Morgan-Holiefield and her late husband received more than $1.2 million in illegal payments, which were spent on jewelry, on furniture and paying off the $262,219 mortgage on their Harrison Township home.
The government affidavits were filed with the Oakland and Macomb register of deeds offices in September 2015, almost two years before Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield were indicted and accused of conspiring to siphon money from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.
“This certainly shows the investigation has been ongoing for well over two years,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.
A lawyer for Iacobelli, 57, declined comment Monday. Morgan-Holiefield’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
If the duo are 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.
“Once again, it’s the admonition of ‘don’t commit a crime,’ ” Henning said. “The government has a couple of very powerful weapons it can use.”
The government is intimately familiar with Iacobelli’s four-bedroom colonial mansion and Morgan-Holiefield’s $366,000 home, which measures 3,100 square feet. Federal agents raided the homes amid the investigation, according to court records.
Agents left with tax and financial records, according to a court filing.
The government’s forfeiture filing in September 2015 came three months after Iacobelli abruptly retired on the eve of labor negotiations and six months after General Holiefield died.
General Motors Co. hired Iacobelli in January 2016 as executive director of labor relations. A GM spokesman declined to comment on Iacobelli’s employment status.
The start of the investigation remained unclear Monday, but it must have been well underway by the time the government filed the affidavit, Henning said.
“The investigation must have progressed far enough so that they would have a reasonable basis to file the affidavit,” Henning said. “The Justice Department takes a proactive approach to keep property available so it can be seized further down the road.”
The forfeiture affidavit emerged less than a week after a former financial analyst with Fiat Chrysler pleaded guilty for his role in helping to improperly channel more than $4.5 million in blue-collar training funds to union officials.
Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester Hills faced charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and failure to file a tax return — all linked to an investigation into improper financial activities at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.
Durden was the center’s controller and pleaded guilty to both charges. He allegedly used some of the training funds for $4,300 in new carpeting at his home.
Durden faces up to 37 months in prison as part of a plea agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He had faced as much as five years in prison on the conspiracy charge. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Ann Arbor.