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FCA corruption figure wins early prison release after helping feds

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jerome Durden, a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive convicted in a widespread bribery scandal involving the United Auto Workers, is expected to be freed from federal prison after cooperating with federal prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman on Wednesday cut Durden's 15-month sentence to eight months, five days after the former auto executive's lawyer cited the COVID-19 outbreak as reason for early release. The only explanation in the judge's order cites a request from the government for a reduced sentence based on Durden's cooperation with the ongoing UAW corruption investigation.

Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester stood mute in federal court on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., which carries up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

Durden, 64, of Rochester started serving his sentence in August. Federal records Thursday show he is incarcerated at the federal prison in Milan.

"I do not know when he’ll be released from prison. I am hopeful very soon because it appears that he has served if not the entire 8 months, pretty close," his lawyer Judith Gracey wrote in an email to The Detroit News on Thursday.

In a recent court filing, Gracey wrote there are "extraordinary circumstances" that warranted Durden's release.

She cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research that shows older adults with serious chronic medical conditions are more likely to contract coronavirus and potentially die. Durden suffers from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, Gracey wrote.

Driven by greed: Alliance of FCA, union leaders fueled decade of corruption

Durden, who helped control the finances at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, was portrayed as a pivotal figure in the auto industry corruption scandal, helping funnel illegal payments to UAW officials involved in a labor conspiracy. He helped control the finances of a training center and was the first person charged in an ongoing prosecution that has led to 13 convictions.

Durden was sentenced for filing misleading tax returns that concealed the labor conspiracy and helping steer more than $386,400 to the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield's phony charity, the Leave the Light On Foundation.

While reviewing financial records, investigators kept noticing Durden's name on documents, a sign he was "moving money around" illegally, Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Shaw wrote in court two years ago.

Durden eventually started cooperating with the government, providing help that shortened a potential three-year prison sentence.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews