By ED WHITE and TOM KRISHER
DETROIT (AP) — A former president of the United Auto Workers union was charged with corruption Thursday, accused of conspiring with his successor and others to embezzle money for golf, vacation villas and fine dining.
Dennis Williams is the 15th person to be charged in an investigation of corruption in the senior ranks of the venerable labor union.
Williams of Corona, California, retired as UAW president in 2018, handing the reins to Gary Jones, who was promoted to the top job from the union’s St. Louis-area regional office.
The charge against Williams was filed in Detroit federal court as a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is likely. Jones pleaded guilty in June.
A message seeking comment was left for Williams’ attorney.
The allegations against Williams mirror the case against Jones: a brazen scheme to use member dues for villas in Palm Springs, California, boozy meals, premium cigars and golf. The court filing said the conspiracy began in 2010 when Williams was treasurer and continued when he became president in 2014.
Jones filed false vouchers to cover up the conspiracy, according to the government.
More than $22,000 in union money was used to rent a villa for Williams for a four-month period in 2016-17, the charging document states.
In late 2016, the union spent $12,195 to rent a villa for Williams’ friends who had no role in UAW business, the government alleged.
“The UAW’s members deserve leaders dedicated to serving the members and their families, not serving themselves,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
The UAW, based in Detroit, has about 400,000 members and is best known for representing workers at Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor.
In a written statement, the UAW said Williams “should rightfully face criminal penalty” if the allegations hold.
The union recently said Williams repaid $55,000 in inappropriate travel expenses. Separately, the UAW is selling a lakefront house built for him at a union conference center in northern Michigan.
Ten union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty since 2017, although not all the crimes were connected. The first wave of convictions, which included some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved money from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit.