Ex-UAW official Jewell to plead guilty in auto conspiracy

Ex-UAW official Jewell to plead guilty in auto conspiracy
Robert Snell, The Detroit News Published 10:34 a.m. ET March 21, 2019 | Updated 12:16 p.m. ET March 21, 2019

Norwood Jewell, UAW vice president, reimbursed the training center for a shotgun and luggage purchased with training center funds. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)

Detroit — Former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell is expected to plead guilty to a labor conspiracy charge next month in federal court and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The plea hearing was scheduled Thursday, three days after Jewell became the highest-ranking former union official charged in an ongoing corruption investigation of the U.S. auto industry. The investigation has raised questions about the sanctity of labor negotiations and shown that UAW officials betrayed the trust of blue-collar workers by accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives.

Jewell is scheduled to plead guilty at 2:30 p.m. on April 2 in front of U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The judge has sentenced seven others to prison for their roles in the auto-industry corruption scandal, including former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli.

Jewell, 61, of Swartz Creek, headed the union’s Fiat Chrysler department. He was charged Monday in a criminal information and accused along with other UAW officials of going on a $100,000 spending spree paid for by Fiat Chrysler officials.

The criminal case focuses heavily on how Fiat Chrysler executives bankrolled a life of luxury for Jewell and other UAW officials in Detroit and Palm Springs, California, with money that was supposed to train blue-collar workers.

Jewell’s lawyer declined comment Thursday.

The criminal charge comes eight months after prosecutors alleged former UAW President Dennis Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals and entertainment. Williams has not been charged with any crimes during the ongoing investigation.

The Jewell case illustrates how the policy saved the UAW money and how union officials spent more than $58,000 at steakhouses and golfing in Palm Springs and Detroit — and how Fiat Chrysler executives picked up the bill. It is unclear whether Jewell is telling investigators anything about his former superiors, including Williams, in exchange for a lighter sentence.

The News reported in September that federal investigators were questioning UAW officials’ use of almost $1 million of membership dues on condominiums, liquor, food and golf in California, where Gary Jones held annual conferences before becoming UAW president.

Tour golf courses and resorts frequented by UAW officials in Palm Springs, Calif., where the union has spent more than $1 million in recent years. Robert Snell, The Detroit News

From at least 2014 to 2016, Jewell and others conspired to violate the Labor Management Relations Act by receiving more than $40,000 worth of travel, lodging and meals from people acting on behalf of Fiat Chrysler, according to court records.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

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