Former Fiat Labor Negotiator Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Misusing Funds

By Christina Rogers Features Dow Jones Newswires

A former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executive pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of making illegal payments to United Auto Worker officials, part of a continuing federal investigation into suspected misuse of funds meant for autoworker training.

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Alphons Iacobelli, 57, a former head of labor relations at Fiat Chrysler, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for allegedly steering $1.2 million in payments and gifts to deceased UAW Vice President General Holiefield, his wife and other UAW officials.

Federal prosecutors also charged Mr. Iacobelli with pocketing more than $1 million from company-funded accounts set up by the UAW-Chrysler National Training center, allegedly making purchases that included a $350,000 Ferrari and gold Mont Blanc pens costing $37,500 each, according to court filings.

Mr. Iacobelli, who was released on $10,000 bond, declined to comment.

A Fiat Chrysler employee, Jerome Durden, was also charged last week for conspiring to obstruct the government's investigation and conceal millions of dollars in illicit payments. He will be arraigned Friday.

Monica Morgan, Mr. Holiefield's wife, pleaded not guilty Monday to conspiracy charges. Mr. Holiefield, a top UAW official who led bargaining with Fiat Chrysler, died in 2015, a year after retiring from the union.

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Ms. Morgan's lawyer hasn't responded to requests for comment.

During his time at Fiat Chrysler, Mr. Iacobelli was the company's top labor negotiator, often sitting across the bargaining table from Mr. Holiefield to negotiate contracts for tens of thousands of autoworkers.

He left Fiat Chrysler abruptly in 2015, a month before negotiations for a new four-year contract with the union began, but was hired by GM in 2016 as an executive director of labor relations. A GM spokesman declined to say whether Mr. Iacobelli is still employed with the company.

The indictments come at a sensitive time for the UAW, which is in the midst of an organizing drive at Nissan's Motor Co.'s massive auto plant in Mississippi. A unionization vote is planned Thursday and Friday to determine whether there is enough support among factory workers for UAW representation.

Fiat Chrysler also has come under federal scrutiny in recent years for its sales reporting and alleged emissions violations involving its diesel engines.

Write to Christina Rogers at christina.rogers@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 01, 2017 16:03 ET (20:03 GMT)