Michael Grimes, a former Flint United Auto Workers official who admitted to accepting more than $1.5 million in bribes from vendors as part of a broader corruption scandal, has reported to a federal prison to begin serving his sentence.
Federal Bureau of Prison records show Grimes, 66, is being housed at the federal prison at Estill, South Carolina, after having been granted time to relocate his family back to Michigan and complete the process of forfeiting a Florida property to the U.S. government as part of his 28-month sentence.
Grimes, who has lived in the Grand Blanc area and Ft. Myers, Fla., pleaded guilty in September to conspiring with other union officials to take kickbacks and bribes from vendors who sold the UAW trinkets, wristwatches and jackets that were distributed to members over a period of nearly 12 years.
In court filings and testimony, Grimes acknowledged taking more than $1.5 million from the vendors in exchange for contracts from the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, which was promoted as a center for training UAW members employed by General Motors and for which Grimes was an executive board member.
Grimes was charged with using the bribes for property, houses, cosmetic surgery for a relative and other items that prosecutors said never benefited union members.
Michael Manley, Grimes’ attorney, confirmed his client reported to serve his sentence, which is scheduled to run until May 2022, but declined further comment.
Manley also represented Norwood Jewell, another UAW official with Flint roots who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in federal custody for his role in a bribery scheme involving Fiat Chrysler.
Jewell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violating the Labor Management Relations Act in April 2019 and was released from a federal prison’s minimum security satellite camp to finish his 15-month sentence through home confinement, part of the federal government’s efforts to expedite the release of eligible inmates during the COVID-19 emergency.
Manley said Grimes has not filed any action seeking home confinement.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons said the prison camp where Grimes has been assigned was damaged by a tornado on April 13, and inmates were moved “to ensure a safe environment allowing for the continuation of meals, medical care and programming as needed or as possible under the circumstances.”
The spokesman said those inmates were moved temporarily to another part of the institution.
“It is the Bureau’s policy to house inmates in the least restrictive environment as possible, however, in an emergency situation it is our responsibility to ensure safety and security and provide access to programs and services as the situation warrants,” he said in an email to MLive-The Flint Journal. “Currently, the inmates have the same access as they did at the satellite camp and are able to move about their assigned housing units in accordance with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance on social distancing, similar to their living conditions at the satellite camp. The Bureau is actively working on repairs to damaged areas of the facility and will continue to monitor the situation carefully and adjust plans as needed.”