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By Jaclyn Diaz
A sixth person was charged in the federal corruption investigation targeting executives at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the United Auto Workers, the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit announced March 21.
Nancy A. Johnson, formerly the second in command in the UAW Chrysler Department from 2014-2016, is facing one charge of conspiracy to violate the Labor-Management Relations Act and four counts of receiving and accepting prohibited money and things of value from a union employer.
Johnson served as the top administrative assistant to the vice president of the Chrysler Department but was removed in July 2016, the union said.
The indictment alleges Johnson used UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds for first-class plane tickets, a $4,587 meal at a California steakhouse, a $6,912 meal at the London Chop House in Detroit, designer clothes and shoes, and limo rides. The U.S. attorney’s office filed the indictment March 14 and unsealed it March 21.
Federal investigators have previously charged five others in connection with the probe of the illegal use of training center funds. Four of them have pleaded guilty.
Johnson is the only UAW official so far named in the investigation to face multiple charges of receiving and accepting prohibited money from a union employer.
That charge may indicate the Justice Department is trying to get Johnson to make a plea deal and to cooperate against others, said Peter Henning, a criminal law professor at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. That could be why she’s facing charges others have not, he said.
“This is the most serious offense that the Justice Department could pursue,” Henning said. “It’s a serious felony. I think it’s designed to put pressure on her. That indicates that she’s not cooperating at this point. They’re bringing the full charges.”
Two other UAW leaders, Virdell King and Keith Mickens, were suspected of improperly using training center credit cards for personal purchases. Neither was charged with an “accepting prohibited money” count, however.
King pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the LMRA. Mickens was charged with the same crime and is alleged to have used the money to buy luggage, golf equipment, and designer clothing.
Alphons Iacobelli, a former FCA executive, originally was charged with paying and delivering things of value to union officials, but that count was dropped as part of his plea agreement.
At this point, Johnson can still reach a plea agreement. If she doesn’t, the DOJ will use every reasonable charge it can, Henning said.
“If you don’t reach an agreement, then the Justice Department comes out with guns blazing,” he said.
An attorney for Johnson couldn’t be reached immediately.
The U.S. attorney’s office said the investigation continues and that Johnson was charged on the basis of the evidence developed to date.
The UAW and FCA have repeatedly stated these claims did not influence bargaining. The union called the allegations “appalling” and said they don’t reflect “the values our union has upheld for more than 80 years.”
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