Dennis Williams, union president for United Auto Workers, raises his arm in solidarity after his farewell speech at the 37th Constitutional Convention in Detroit, Michigan on June 13, 2018.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters
DETROIT – A former United Auto Workers president who, along with other union officials, participated in a program for which they embezzled at least $ 1.5 million in membership fees lavish trips, golfing, alcohol and other luxury goods were sentenced to 21 months in prison on Tuesday.
Dennis Williams is the highest-ranking union official convicted in a multi-year corruption investigation against the prominent American union. He is one of 15 accused, including three Fiat Chrysler executives and his successor awaiting conviction.
Williams choked on Tuesday while speaking in court during the virtual court hearing. He apologized to his family and members of the UAW for his actions.
“I’ve thought long and hard about how my actions and the actions of others harm the union I love,” said Williams. “I am more than the actions that got me here before you on this case.”
Williams pleaded guilty in September Conspire with fellow union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a plea with federal attorneys. According to the agreement, his sentence would range from 18 to 24 months.
Williams was also ordered to pay $ 147,976 in restitution, including $ 132,517 to the UAW and $ 15,459 to the Internal Revenue Service.
The federal prosecutor had recommended the guidelines for the maximum sentence for Williams, who headed the union from 2014 to 2018. In court documents, they described Williams as closely involved in the illegal activities and led a “double life”.
“Dennis Williams has tried two lives. On the one hand, he has teased things at public events that were ‘wrong’ in the United States because union members ‘can’t buy the things they build,'” wrote US attorneys issued a verdict last week. “But privately, he has taken advantage of the hundreds of thousands of UAW members he has led.”
President Donald Trump speaks with auto industry leaders including Mary Barra (L), CEO of General Motors, and Dennis Williams (R), President of United Auto Workers (UAW), at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, USA , March 15, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
In a separate memo, Williams’ attorneys argued that he should not spend more than a year and a day in federal prison. They touted him as a “devoted family man” and a marine veteran who “made mistakes”.
“Mr. Williams’ life was – until he was convinced – a great American success story,” they wrote. The lawyers blamed his successor, Gary Jones, a regional director under Williams, for much of the malpractice. Williams and his attorney continued to accuse Jones Tuesday, portraying Williams as an ignorant beneficiary of the illegal activities.
“In my stomach, I knew better and I couldn’t stop it,” he said. “I’ve lost my perspective of who I was and what I was about. I will always regret it.”
Family members and others, including actor Danny Glover, submitted letters to the court in support of Williams. In a letter, Glover said he “worked closely with Williams” for six years when the UAW tried to organize workers at Nissan Motor in Mississippi.
The sentences for those indicted under the federal investigation ranged from 60 days to five and a half years. Former Fiat Chrysler CEO Alphons Iacobelli, who ran the company’s labor relations, received the longest prison sentence. however, it has recently been shortened to four years.
In December the UAW and federal prosecutors agreed to end the corruption investigation into the union under a civil settlement that included an independent observer who oversaw the organization for six years.
Other requirements under the contract are that the union hold a nationwide vote to potentially reform its voting process and make certain repayments, including a $ 1.5 million payment to the IRS. The UAW has already repaid approximately $ 15 million to training centers for improper chargebacks uncovered by officials.
A criminal investigation is ongoing against people related to the investigation, according to a spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Detroit.
The UAW said in a statement Tuesday that Williams was “rightly convicted today of crimes which have put his personal and self-interest above that of our members.”