A former UAW executive who started his career working at a General Motors plant in Flint used more than $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks to purchase property, houses and cosmetic surgery for a relative, federal prosecutors say in a new sentencing memorandum.
The filing in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Feb. 11, details what prosecutors describe as Michael Grimes’ “pay-to-play scheme,” requiring vendors to provide kickbacks, but also recognizes his “prompt agreement to accept responsibility for his actions and his significant cooperation” in the continuing United Auto Workers corruption scandal.
Grimes pleaded guilty in September to stealing from fellow union members through kickbacks from vendors over a period of nearly 12 years as he rose through the UAW’s ranks.
The formal charges he agreed to were conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Although sentencing guidelines call for him to serve from 46 to 57 months in prison as a result, the government is recommending U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman sentence him next week to just 24 months “in light of Grimes’ significant cooperation.”
Norwood Jewell, another UAW official with Flint roots, also pleaded guilty to a criminal charge for his role in the UAW- Fiat Chrysler bribery scheme.
Jewell pleaded guilty 10 months ago to a count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act and was sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security federal prison camp in Wisconsin.
It’s not known yet where Grimes, who started working for GM in Flint in 1972, will serve whatever sentence he receives.
He was elected shop chairman at UAW Local 659 in 1987 and re-elected in 1990. In 1992, he was moved up to the UAW International Union’s sourcing committee, which evaluated GM’s use of outside companies and proposed ways to bring work back into the corporation.
Prior to that promotion, Grimes was a former bargaining chairman at the old AC Rochester Flint West plant. In August 1990, he led a strike there that started one month before the expiration of the UAW’s national agreement with GM.
MLive-The Flint Journal could not immediately reach his attorney, Mike Manley, for comment on the government’s sentencing memorandum Tuesday.
Grimes himself told Friedman in September that he began taking kickback from vendors after getting ““into a financial burden.”
The sentencing memo says the bribes came from vendors who received massive orders of UAW-branded merchandise including watches and jackets.
After contracts were signed with vendors, they wrote checks to Grimes, including a $10,000 payment to pay for a “cosmetic procedure for Grimes’ relative,” the memo says.
In another case, Grimes used a vendor’s $530,000 cashier’s check toward a $630,000 house in the Fenton area.
Federal agents executed a search warrant at Grimes’ residence in Florida in March 2019, and he quickly agreed to cooperate with the broader UAW corruption investigation.
The sentencing memo says Grimes was the instigator of the crimes he was accused of but “appears genuinely remorseful for the crimes he committed and regrets the pain he has inflicted on the UAW membership, his coworkers and his family.”