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Ninth person pleads guilty in ongoing corruption investigation of UAW

UAW-GM Center for Human Resources
Bill VanderMolen/flickr
The UAW-GM Center for Human Resources

Another former high level UAW official has pleaded guilty to charges that he took bribes and kickbacks while working for the union.

Michael Grimes is the ninth person to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation of the UAW. He’s the first so far from the UAW’s General Motors division.

Federal prosecutors say Grimes took more than $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks over the course of 12 years, while serving on the board of the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. The Center is meant to be a training facility for the UAW’s GM workers.

"The conduct admitted by Mr. Grimes in his plea today is shocking and absolutely disgraceful,” the UAW said in a statement.

The union says it adopted new policies last year to put a stop to the practices.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan says Grimes received bribes and kickbacks in exchange for approving lucrative contracts with vendors who did business with the training center from 2006 to 2018.

Federal prosecutors say one scheme involved a $300,000 kickback to Grimes for his approval of a $6 million contract for jackets. The union purchased 50,000 jackets in the deal.

Another scheme involved a contract to buy more than 58,000 watches from one vendor.

Prosecutors say Grimes and two other co-conspirators demanded more than $300,000 in kickbacks for the deal.

“However the watches were never distributed to UAW members,” the U.S. Attorney’s office says in a statement. “Instead, the watches have been sitting in storage in a warehouse for over five years.”

Peter Henning is a law professor at Wayne State University. He says the guilty plea from Grimes was expected.

“The interesting question is going to be whether he will cooperate,” Henning says. There’s no indication yet. But for a defendant, it’s in their best interest to cooperate with the government.”

Henning says cooperation offers Grimes his best chance of avoiding a lengthy prison sentence.

Henning says he also expects there will be more charges in the ongoing investigation. Last week, FBI agents raided the home of current UAW President Gary Jones, and former president Dennis Williams.

“With the search in the last couple weeks of the current president and the former president, the question is, ‘Is another shoe going to drop?’” Henning asks. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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