Former UAW President Gary Jones was sentenced Thursday to 28 months in prison after pleading guilty last summer to embezzlement, racketeering, and fraud charges. Jones was also fined and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.
The Detroit News’ Robert Snell — who more than any other reporter has been on this case from the beginning — was there to watch it unfold.
Jones, speaking rapidly, apologized to his family and the union, which is being overseen by a court-appointed independent watchdog empowered to root out corruption.
“I failed them. I failed the UAW,” Jones told the judge in a quivering voice. “I let my union down. I pray every day that no harm comes to the UAW.”
Then, Jones fist-bumped his attorney Bruce Maffeo and prosecutors then hugged and kissed his wife — though both were wearing masks.
Jones was president of the UAW for a little over a year before resigning under pressure in November 2019 amid a corruption probe that has ensnared 15 people. For his part, Jones admitted to helping facilitate a criminal scheme that stole over $1 million from the rank-and-file.
From prosecutors’ sentencing memorandum:
Using the cover of UAW Region 5 conferences in Missouri and California, Jones used UAW dues money to pay for anything and everything he and the other top UAW leaders wanted: He provided custom-made sets of golf clubs for himself and co-defendants Dennis Williams, Vance Pearson, and Edward Robinson, each set costing thousands of dollars. He allowed the senior UAW leaders and their families to vacation, for months at a time, in posh Palm Springs villas. He provided lavish meals, over $60,000 worth of cigars, entertainment, rounds of golf, and liquor. Through the scheme, UAW leaders took over $100,000 worth of clothing, golf equipment, and other items. The exorbitance was jaw-dropping.
To facilitate this lavish spending, Jones submitted fraudulent vouchers to the UAW accounting department. The vouchers concealed the top officials’ personal expenses by inflating other, legitimate conference expenses and holding back the detailed, itemized bills.
Jones was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman, who gave Jones the 28 months that prosecutors sought. That sentence is significantly less than the 46 to 57 months that Jones and prosecutors said they agreed to at the time of his guilty plea, indicating that Jones’ cooperation in the case has been substantial.
Prosecutors said in court documents that Jones contacted authorities in December 2019 through his attorney, weeks after resigning as UAW president. The next month, Jones began meeting with them in debriefings where Jones was “open, truthful, and candid about his own criminal activity and the criminal activity of other UAW officials.” Those officials included another former UAW president, Dennis Williams, who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in May.
Authorities said that Jones cooperation “helped ensure” Williams’ conviction and sentence, in addition helping the government institute oversight of the UAW.
“He knew enough to say no and he didn’t,” Bruce Maffeo, an attorney for Jones, said Thursday, according to the Detroit News. “That is to his eternal regret and shame, and that is a burden he and his family will be carrying with them for the rest of their lives — even after this proceeding and its consequences are soldiered through.”