Ex-UAW Official Sentenced for Collecting $2M in Shakedowns

The wages of corruption at the United Auto Workers continue to be paid. On February 18, Michael Grimes, a retired senior official at the Detroit-based union’s General Motors Department, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to 28 months in prison and a year of supervised release for honest services fraud and money laundering conspiracy related to his extraction of roughly $2 million in payoffs from UAW vendors through multiple schemes. He also must pay about $1.5 million restitution plus a $200 assessment. Grimes had pleaded guilty in September after being charged in August. The actions follow a probe by the FBI, the IRS and Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

Grimes, now in his mid-60s, a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., had served as a $150,000-a-year administrative assistant to United Auto Workers Vice President Estrada. Apparently, it wasn’t enough. According to prosecutors, Grimes during 2006-18 conspired with two mid-level union officials, Vance Pearson and Jeffrey Pietrzyk, to extract nearly $2 million in bribes and kickbacks from union vendors, keeping about $1.5 million for his own personal use. Grimes, through the GM-funded union training center, had provided vendors of UAW-logo clothing and sundry items with lucrative contracts in exchange for sizable chunks of payola. He pressured one vendor into giving him a $60,000 mortgage and periodic bribes totaling $900,000, plus more than $1 million in combined kickbacks for the production of 50,000 “Team UAW-GM” logo jackets for $6 million and 55,000 logo backpacks for $5.8 million. Pearson and Pietrzyk each have pleaded guilty for misuse of union funds. Former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, former director of the automaker-funded training center, also has pleaded guilty. And former Presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams may yet be indicted.   

The sentencing of Grimes is part of a continuing federal probe of corruption at the UAW’s GM and Chrysler Departments. “It is imperative that the UAW leadership continues to be held accountable to their fiduciary duties and responsibilities,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “Today’s sentence represents another step in our effort to target and prosecute corrupt UAW leaders who place their drive for personal enrichment ahead of the mission of the union.”