DETROIT — Four people have now been charged in connection with a $4.5 million embezzlement case involving the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and an ongoing federal investigation appears likely to ensnare more high-ranking officials.
Last week, a retired UAW associate director, Virdell King, was charged with using a credit card from a training center for Chrysler employees to buy more than $40,000 worth of clothing, jewelry, luggage and other personal items for herself and other senior UAW officials. Among the purchases for herself was a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes for more than $1,000, authorities said.
King was charged in a criminal information, a document that indicates she could accept a plea deal in exchange for evidence against co-conspirators. Among the items she is accused of purchasing was a shotgun given to UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell for his birthday.
According to the union, Jewell, 59, received a shotgun for his birthday in 2015 purchased with a credit card tied to the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Once discovering the investigation into the potential misuse of training center funds, and tracing the source of the gift, he reimbursed the union for the $2,180 cost.
"We have thoroughly investigated the matter and concluded that Norwood Jewell did nothing illegal and has acted in line with the UAW's ethical practices," the UAW said in a statement.
Charged so far, in addition to King, are former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli; former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden; and Monica Morgan, the widow of Jewell's predecessor, General Holiefield.
Iacobelli and Morgan each had a not guilty plea entered on their behalf and are scheduled for trial in September. Federal authorities also are seeking to seize Iacobelli's and Morgan's homes, which were allegedly paid for or significantly improved with training center funds.
Durden pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal for his involvement in funneling the money to the Chrysler training center.
Iacobelli, according to the document charging King, told an unidentified UAW official: "If you see something you want, feel free to buy it. I don't have a problem if you buy it on the charge card."
Following the indictment, the UAW and FCA said they had worked together with the training center to safeguard against future liability. There is now a ban on any charitable donations from the center to a charity run or controlled by a UAW official. There are also new policies and processes in place for vendors and credit cards. Additionally, budgets must be approved by training center board members or directors, and the center has a full-time controller.
A hotline also was created for members to report suspected wrongdoing.