Former UAW President Dennis Williams charged with conspiracy to embezzle union funds

The new charge is part of a long and ongoing case into corruption in the UAW

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President Donald Trump, Ford Motor Company president Mark Fields, and former UAW Dennis Williams in 2017
President Donald Trump, Ford Motor Company president Mark Fields, and former UAW Dennis Williams in 2017
(Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images)
Updated: August 28, 2020 - 12:41pm

Federal prosecutors have charged Dennis Williams, the former president of the United Auto Workers, with conspiring to embezzle money from the union for personal luxury items and travel expenses.

Williams, who was charged Thursday, becomes the 15th person accused of corruption in a years-long investigation into the union. 

Williams, 67, served as the union's president from 2014-2018, during which time he used union money to fund private villas in Palm Springs, top-grade cigars, golfing attire and course fees, as well as luxury dinners. 

The Justice Department alleges Williams worked with Gary Jones, who succeeded Williams as union president, to misuse union funds. Jones pleaded guilty to a similar set of charges in June of this year. Jones admitted to spending more than $1 million in union money for vacation expenses, golf trips, apparel, alcohol and cigars, and fine dining experiences. 

Earlier this year, the union stopped paying Williams' legal fees and ordered him to reimburse the union for $56,000 of personal travel and housing expenses that he had charged last year.

The union also reclaimed a luxury retirement home that had been built for Williams at a lakeside resort in northern Michigan owned by UAW.

This investigation into UAW has been going on for at least five years and has thus far resulted in guilty pleas from 11 union officials and several former Fiat Chrysler executives. 

Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, called the case "disheartening." He said it is the largest investigation of its kind into the misdeeds of a labor union. Schneider says he does not want the federal government to seek or gain control of the UAW, but that "all options are on the table."

UAW's current union president, Rory Gamble, said in a statement, "Today’s development is a sad day for UAW members."

"Any violation of Mr. Williams’s oath of office and his responsibility to oversee our members and their sacred dues money should rightfully face criminal penalty," continued Gamble. 

Schneider said the current union leadership has been cooperative and has made positive changes that have assisted his office in the investigation. 

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