Prosecutor says federal takeover of UAW still an option as ex-union boss charged with embezzlement

DETROIT (Reuters) - Talks to reform the United Auto Workers are going well but a federal takeover remains an option, the U.S. prosecutor leading a corruption probe of the union said on Thursday as another former UAW president was charged with embezzlement.

FILE PHOTO: United Auto Workers Union President Dennis Williams speaks with the media during a media round-table at Solidarity House in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Federal and union officials are “actively talking” and “making great progress,” Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told Reuters in an interview.

“All options are still on the table and they will be until we can resolve this,” he said.

Schneider said he would like to see the union reform talks wrap up as soon as possible but the investigation of corruption within the union continues, with 15 people being charged so far.

A high-profile target of the probe, former UAW President Dennis Williams, 67, was charged by Schneider’s office on Thursday with conspiring with other union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds.

The charging of Williams in a document called a criminal information follows the guilty plea in June of Williams’ successor Gary Jones, who also faced embezzlement charges. A criminal information is a court document typically used when the government has reached a plea deal with a defendant to plead guilty.

Williams, of Corona, California, was charged with conspiring with Jones and others to embezzle money between 2010 and September 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. Williams was the head of the union from June 2014 to June 2018.

Based on the charges, Williams faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for Williams could not be reached to comment.

Williams accepted housing for himself and friends at private villas in Palm Springs, California, golf clothing and other merchandise, rounds of golf, meals, high-end liquor and cigars provided by co-conspirators, all paid for with union funds, prosecutors said.

Schneider met with current UAW President Rory Gamble about union reform in June, but the two have not spoken since while their teams negotiate.

“Today’s development is a sad day for UAW members,” the union said in a statement about Williams. “Let us begin to turn the page to a better union -- but let us never forget the painful lessons of the past.”

An arraignment date for Williams has not been set.

Reporting by Ben Klayman, additional reporting by Nick Carey in Davenport, Iowa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown