Former UAW president pleads guilty to embezzling union funds

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United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams gives his farewell speech to the union membership during the 37th Constitutional Convention in Detroit,

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams on Wednesday pleaded guilty to trying to embezzle union funds that prosecutors said he spent on Palm Springs vacations, golf, liquor and cigars.

Appearing by video in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Williams entered his plea and apologized to the members of a union that faces a corruption probe by the office for Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Williams is one of 15 people charged so far in the probe being run Schneider, who has said a takeover of the union remains an option.

“I want to close by apologizing to … each and every hard-working member paying dues,” Williams said. “I hope by accepting responsibility for my actions and for my failures, this process might help restore the faith in our union.”

Williams, 67, was charged last month by federal prosecutors in Detroit with conspiring with other union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds.

Under the agreement to plead guilty, Williams’ sentence may not exceed 24 months. He had faced a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. No agreement was reached on the fine or how much in restitution will be paid, and that will be determined at Williams’ sentencing on Jan. 25.

Williams also agreed to forfeit a custom-made set of Titleist golf clubs and other golf merchandise, and pay taxes on embezzled items, prosecutors said.

Williams, who was forced to resign from the UAW on Sept. 18, said he had repaid the union more than $56,000.

The UAW said in a statement it would pursue repayment of legal fees and other misspent union funds.

The union said Williams “put his personal and self-interest above that of our members and this union. These serious charges deserve serious legal consequences.”

Williams, of Corona, California, was charged with conspiring with others to embezzle money between 2010 and September 2019, according to prosecutors. Williams was the head of the union from June 2014 to June 2018.

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.

“Williams has accepted responsibility for his conduct and, in that way, has contributed to our efforts with the union’s current leadership towards reforming the UAW,” Schneider said in a statement.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Richard Chang and Cynthia Osterman)

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