(Reuters) – A former United Auto Workers official, charged for conspiring with other union leaders to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars of workers’ dues, pleaded guilty on Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan said.
Vance Pearson, 58, was arrested in September after a criminal complaint against him showed vast sums being spent on lavish entertainment by labor leaders – including $440 bottles of champagne originally created to please a Russian czar and scantily clad women to light union leaders’ cigars.
“Based on his racketeering and embezzlement conspiracy conviction, Pearson faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Pearson is the 12th defendant to plead guilty in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation, according to the statement.
“Vance Pearson blatantly violated his oath of office and betrayed the trust of all our hard-working members … While our union is moving forward, we will never forget the costly lessons from our past,” the UAW said in a statement.
Pearson was the head of the union’s Region 5, which covers 17 U.S. states – a role he took over from Gary Jones after serving as his second in command.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)