Category: Law and Order

By on August 18, 2017

UAW-Chrysler National Training Centre (Norwood Jewell on left), Image: UAW-Chrysler National Training Center

On the surface, the UAW-Chrysler National Training center is a facility offering a helping hand to blue-collar workers looking to improve their employability. But the widening spending scandal involving former top brass at both the union and automaker has exposed a previously unknown use for the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles-funded NTC: a trough of cash at which to gorge oneself.

Two weeks after former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles financial analyst Jerome Durden, indicted for funnelling $4.5 million in training center funds to other execs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, the scandal has spread to existing execs.

The Detroit News reports current United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell (seen above, on left) became the recipient of some of those funds in the form of a high-powered gift: a $2,180 shotgun. Read More >

By on August 11, 2017

wells fargo

California’s insurance regulators have launched an investigation into Wells Fargo following the bank’s confession that it forced hundreds of thousands of auto loan borrowers to pay for insurance policies they didn’t need and, in many cases, were unaware of.

There’s also a congressional investigation underway, where U.S. senators are asking the company basic questions like who was affected, how broadly, whether they get a refund, and why the hell this occurred in the first place.

Unlike JPMorgan Chase or Bank of America, Wells Fargo’s auto loan contracts allowed the lender to obtain collateral protection insurance on a customer’s behalf if they failed to buy liability coverage themselves — or if the bank assumed they hadn’t. It’s not common practice and, when it causes paying customers to default and have their vehicle repossessed, it’s not difficult to see why.  Read More >

By on August 9, 2017

Takata-jpg

Takata, the airbag supplier whose cost-cutting measures ended up killing people, issued a request on Wednesday to suspend lawsuits against automakers filed by those injured by its faulty inflators.

Without the injunction, Takata claims the rampant litigation would prohibit management from completing the sale of the company’s viable operations to Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion, threatening the supply of air bag inflators meant to replace already recalled ones (which may include all previously repaired units, pending an EPA investigation).

Obviously, the injured parties want restitution. Plaintiffs’ lawyers call the proposed injunction “an abuse of the bankruptcy laws for the benefit of all of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers.” The fear is that Takata’s request will delay consideration of numerous lawsuits for several months to a year, which is a long time to wait when you’ve been wronged.  Read More >

By on August 8, 2017

FCA - Auburn Hills

Automotive conspiracies are all the rage right now. However, my current favorite is the cooperative machinations between Fiat Chrysler employees and UAW representatives to embezzle millions from a joint training fund.

On Tuesday, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden entered a guilty plea at a hearing in federal courtroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Durden aims to cooperate with prosecutors (in exchange for a reduced sentence) as they build their case against other conspirators — specifically Alfons Iacobelli, FCA’s former head of labor relations, and Monica Morgan, widow of General Holiefield, the UAW’s former head of its Chrysler division.

The pair are alleged to have the siphoned over a million dollars from the FCA-UAW Joint Training Center between 2009 and 2014, blowing the majority of it on home expansions, fancy cars, first-class plane tickets, and extravagant baubles. Meanwhile, Durden was caught failing to file a tax return for the approximately $4,000 he received in 2013. Oh, and for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. Read More >

By on August 4, 2017

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Oliver Schmidt, a German national and Volkswagen’s former emissions compliance manager in the United States, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Detroit for his role in the massive diesel emissions scandal. However, he didn’t cop to the complete list of charges.

Instead of the 11 felonies and 169 years of possible prison time he was initially charged with, Schmidt is down to just a couple — conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violating the Clean Air Act. This makes him eligible for a maximum of seven years behind bars or, more likely, no jail time at all.  Read More >

By on July 26, 2017

Chrysler HQ Auburn Hills

Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan, wife of late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, have been charged by a federal grand jury with violating the Labor Management Relations Act.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit, the pair were indicted on Wednesday for corruption after a lengthy joint investigation between the FBI and the IRS.

Iacobelli is accused of acting in the interest of FCA by issuing over $1.2 million in illegal payments and bribes to union members — including Morgan and Holiefield. The former union executive’s untimely death appears to have thrust his widow into the spotlight and saved him the trouble of a lengthy trial.

Morgan is best known for her work as a photographer in Detroit, and for being accidentally shot in the stomach by her husband while he was cleaning his Desert Eagle handgun in 2013. Iacobelli is primarily known for negotiating killer deals with the UAW and an abrupt, scandal-related, retirement in 2015.  Read More >

By on July 20, 2017

ford f-150 police responder

Ford recently began giving law enforcement agencies more options in terms of the type of automobiles they want to put into active duty. The company provided America’s preferred pursuit vehicle, the Crown Victoria, for years and has moved on to a broader fleet of sedans, SUVs, and pickups specifically equipped for police use. Earlier this year, Ford showcased the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan as part of its Greener Shade of Blue campaign — dubbing it the “first pursuit-rated hybrid police car.”

We condemned Ford for its bragging, mainly because Chevrolet already provided a hybrid police vehicle and there was no concrete evidence that the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan was actually pursuit-rated. Unfortunately, we may be forced to do that all over again with Ford’s new F-150 Police Responder pickup. It’s another new, likely welcome, entry into the automaker’s extensive law enforcement fleet that leaves us doubting the validity of the terminology used. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 ford fusion, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Likely the answer to the prayers of one very bored sales representative, an Ohio-based Ford dealership was issued a batch of Mexican-built Fusions sedans with roughly $1 million of marijuana hidden inside. The vehicles were assembled in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico and shipped by rail into a CSX yard in Lordstown before making their way to a Youngstown Ford dealer.

According to the local police department, the dealership gradually discovered the marijuana between July 7th and July 11th — packaged in half-moon containers covertly stored in the spare-tire compartment under the trunk’s lining. Since it’s unlikely this is a bold new promotional strategy on the part of Ford, authorities are currently trying to uncover who was supposed to take delivery of the drugs before they arrived at the dealer lot.  Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

Throughout the entirety of Volkswagen’s diesel emission scandal, the automaker has changed its tune on several occasions. After evading scrutiny from regulators for years, it finally admitted to installing illegal defeat devices designed to fool U.S. emission testing in late 2015. However, it assured the public that no high-ranking executive had complete knowledge of the misdeed until news of the scandal broke to outraged consumers.

Obviously, that was a lie. But no damning evidence came out indicating anyone above mid-level management had prior knowledge of the devices or any idea they would be so harmful to the company. But now a Volkswagen manager arrested earlier this year claims the automaker’s former chief executive and other top managers had been told the carmaker’s diesel emissions violations could cost up to $18.5 billion, well before the September 2015 announcement.  Read More >

By on July 8, 2017

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

American investigators, hot on the trail of Volkswagen Group executives and managers with dirty hands, haven’t had the easiest time bringing suspected emissions scandal conspirators to trial. Germany doesn’t extradite citizens facing charges in other countries, making justice a tricky pursuit for U.S. authorities.

So far, only two players in the diesel deception find themselves in the arms of U.S. law enforcement— James Liang, a former executive who worked in California (and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges), and Oliver Schmidt, a former U.S. environmental liaison who previously worked out of VW’s Michigan emissions office. Federal agents nabbed him during a Miami layover as the German national returned home from a tropical vacation in January. Six others remain safely in Germany after a U.S. indictment.

Well, expect another trial now. Earlier this week, Munich police arrested an Italian national, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, the former head of thermodynamics at Audi’s engine development division. It’s the first diesel-related arrest in Germany and Pamio’s citizenship means he’s a candidate for extradition to the United States.

Now charged in connection to the scandal, American authorities hope Pamio squeals on his bosses at Audi. As for his involvement, the federal government alleges Pamio and others decided a premium sound system was a better use of vehicle space than a proper emission control system. Read More >

By on July 5, 2017

squad car police

It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.

Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.

While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people.  Read More >

By on June 29, 2017

Car in a Driveway, Image: Bigstock.com

For many years the phrase “keep the car running” carried a fine in some Michigan locales if put into practice. At least, it once did.  As of Wednesday, the state of Michigan has made it legal to warm up your car in the driveway as you stare at it, coffee in hand, from the front window. Careful, though — local anti-idling laws might still apply.

A local law enacted to prevent vehicle theft was the reason behind a $128 ticket issued to Roseville resident Taylor Trupiano back in January. A police officer handed over the civil infraction notice after seeing Trupiano’s car, with keys in the ignition, engine running, and doors unlocked, sitting unattended in the driveway for an extended period of time. The owner claimed he was simply warming up his car for his girlfriend and two-year-old son.

Eventually, the matter ended up in court. While Trupiano eventually lost his case — he was unable to prove that his driveway wasn’t easily accessible to the public — state lawmakers took notice. Read More >

By on June 23, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

It would seem Waymo’s case against Uber is progressing at the latter’s expense. Anthony Levandowski, the former Uber employee at the center of the intellectual property theft, was apparently covered in writing for any legal action taken against for things like… fraud and stealing trade secrets.

The clause, which is literally outlined as “Pre-Signing Bad Acts” in the contract, was part of closed documents U.S. District Judge William Alsup previously assumed would be invaluable in progressing the case. Alphabet, which owns Waymo, accused Uber of being complicit in Levandowski’s alleged theft – suggesting the ride-sharing rival intentionally hired him in the hopes he would bring inside information acquired during his tenure at Google. It was a notion Alsup also seemed more than willing to entertain.

“It remains entirely possible that Uber knowingly left Levandowski free to keep that treasure trove of files as handy as he wished [provided he keep the data on his own personal devices], and that Uber willfully refused to tell Levandowski to return the treasure trove to its rightful owner,” the judge said back in MayRead More >

By on May 31, 2017

2015-Ford-Focus

Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift transmission has made the Blue Oval a number of enemies over the past several years. Now, nearly 7,000 U.S. Ford owners are looking for a pound of flesh.

A lawsuit filed against the automaker is seeking compensation for individual damages claimed by the plaintiffs, all of whom own a 2012-2016 Ford Focus or 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta. The suit, which is just the latest of many, contains a familiar complaint about Ford’s small-car tranny. Basically, that it’s awful, and not even an exorcist can free it from its demons. Read More >

By on May 25, 2017

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LTZ crew cab pickup

Suing automakers over diesel emissions violations is quickly on its way to becoming passé.

Since Volkswagen admitted to installing software that circumvented pollution laws, regulators have been on the hunt for their next big target. While it might make their efforts seem like a bit of a witch hunt, there’s good reason to be on the lookout. Studies have shown diesel emission levels are often much higher than analysts expected, with experts attributing the results to the high probability that other automakers are skirting regulatory guidelines — likely by way of defeat devices.

Daimler, Renault, and PSA Group are all being investigated in their home countries as FCA faces legal action within the United States.

General Motors is now being sued for allegedly installing defeat devices in its trucks to sidestep emissions tests, making it the sixth major manufacturer accused of diesel cheating since 2015. However, General Motors isn’t dabbling in gray areas, acting confused, or assuring the public it will get to the bottom of the accusations. It says the claims against it are flat out wrong.  Read More >

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