Rochester man sentenced to jail for involvement in federal FCA-UAW probe

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 8, 2018

ROCHESTER — A local former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles financial adviser will spend 15 months in federal prison in connection to a scheme to bribe United Auto Workers officials.

Jerome Durden, 62, of Rochester, was sentenced Nov. 7 before U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Paul D. Borman based on his prior August 2017 guilty plea of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Durden will have three years of supervised release and must pay restitution of more than $8,800 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Prosecutors said Durden — a former financial analyst for Fiat Chrysler who controlled the finances at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center from 2008 to 2015 — filed false tax returns that concealed over $1.5 million in illegal payments by Fiat Chrysler to senior UAW officials through the National Training Center. The illegal payments included paying off the mortgage on former UAW Vice President General Holiefield’s home, first-class airline travel, designer clothing, furniture, jewelry and custom-made watches.

According to court documents, the senior UAW officials who were bribed include Holiefield; UAW Assistant Director Virdell King; senior UAW official Keith Mickens; senior UAW official Nancy A. Johnson, who served as the second in command of the UAW’s Chrysler Department from July 2014 through 2016; and others.

Prosecutors said Durden also helped steer money from the training center to Holiefield’s phony charity, the Leave the Light On Foundation.

The false tax returns concealed compensation paid to Holiefield and others, and caused over $1 million in tax losses to the U.S., according to court records.

Durden’s attorney, Judith Gracey, said she had no comment on the matter.

Two additional defendants were sentenced Nov. 7 in the ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials. Keith Mickens, 64, of Clarkston, was sentenced to 12 months in prison based on his April 2018 conviction to conspiring with other UAW officials and FCA executives to take illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler. Michael Brown, 60, of West Bloomfield, was sentenced to 12 months in prison based on his felony conviction for providing misleading and incomplete testimony to a federal grand jury.

Following the sentencings, the UAW, through spokesman Brian Rothenberg, released a statement:

“Union members and FCA officials in this case acted out of personal greed, enriching themselves while damaging the reputations of their organizations. Fortunately, the UAW has layers of checks and balances in contract negotiations, including voting by the entire membership, and we are confident the terms of our agreement were never impacted.”

In a statement, an FCA spokesperson said, “FCA U.S. firmly restates that it was a victim of illegal conduct by Al Iacobelli and certain other rogue individuals who formerly held leadership roles at the National Training Center. FCA U.S. also confirms that the conduct of these individuals — for their personal enrichment and neither at the direction nor for the benefit of the company — had no impact on the collective bargaining process. Rather, the behavior involved a small number of bad actors who stole training funds entrusted to their control and co-opted other individuals who reported to them to carry out or conceal their activity over a period of several years.”

United States Attorney Matthew Schneider also issued a statement following the sentencings:

“The court’s sentences today are further strides forward in our effort to root out corruption in the leadership of the UAW because of illegal payments by Fiat Chrysler and its executives,” Schneider said in the statement. “We want the hardworking men and women of the union to know that federal law enforcement will uncover, prosecute and punish any effort to undermine their collective bargaining process.”