Ex-UAW Official Sentenced in Union Bribery Scandal

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Michael Grimes, former executive assistant and board member of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, was sentenced to 28 months in prison Wednesday after being convicted of money laundering and wire fraud.

While the sentence could have been longer, prosecutors reportedly asked for leniency due to Grimes’ cooperation with the broader investigation. Initially pushing for about four years of jail time, they eventually toned the recommendation down to just two. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman acknowledged the defendant’s usefulness in helping federal authorities sniff out more union and industry corruption, then decided to stick him with an extra couple of months to send a message.

Like many tied to the scandal, Grimes pleaded guilty and started working with investigators almost immediately. According to Automotive News, he also requested God’s forgiveness and apologized to the union during court proceedings. The UAW doesn’t seem interested in accepting apologies, however. Its board filed its own action against Grimes in late January, nullifying his membership in a bid to protect itself, and likely won’t be pleased with any finger pointing he offered during interrogation.

From Automotive News:

U.S. prosecutors say Grimes conspired with two unidentified senior UAW officials on multiple schemes going back to at least 2006. Grimes, according to prosecutors, pressured a vendor of custom UAW logo products into giving him a $60,000 mortgage and periodic bribes totaling nearly $900,000.

The prosecution’s criminal information against Grimes says the trio also arranged for the same vendor to sell the joint UAW-GM training center 50,000 “Team UAW-GM” jackets for $6 million in 2011 and 55,000 backpacks for $5.8 million in 2016. Grimes got the vendor to give him more than $1 million in kickbacks for those orders, according to the prosecution.

Grimes used bribe payments to buy, among other things, a 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and property in Florida.

He has agreed to forfeit a house estimated to be worth $600,000 in Fort Myers, FL. The previously mentioned Jeep Wrangler is also being handed over, in addition to another automobile, an ATV, two boats, and a bunch of jewelry. Grime’s lawyer, Michael Manley (who is not related to the FCA executive), attempted to make it clear to the court that his client has cooperated and did not technically embezzle money from the UAW.

Judge Friedman said that wasn’t exactly enough to absolve the defendant, adding that the information gleaned through court proceedings could prove useful in subsequent corruption probes. “I was very surprised to learn that the union had a shop right inside the plant,” he said. “I’d never heard of such a thing.”

Federal agents remain suspicious that union leadership received kickbacks after giving business executives contracts to produce branded clothing and trinkets — with UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada and her predecessor, Joe Ashton, being persons of interest. Aston has already pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing, though prosecutors have been careful to hold off on charging people in direct relation to the trinket issue. Instead, the focus has turned to the misappropriation of membership dues and industry bribes that likely affected contract negotiations with automakers.

Thus far, they’ve managed to convict 12 individuals — with more presumed as both investigations continue.

[Image: Daniel J. Macy/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Mike-NB2 Mike-NB2 on Feb 20, 2020

    I have had some personal experience withe the 1.6L engine used in the Chevette. I was never so happy to see a car leave my possession.

  • Mike-NB2 Mike-NB2 on Feb 20, 2020

    I have had some personal experience withe the 1.6L engine used in the Chevette. I was never so happy to see a car leave my possession.

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
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