Union Training Center Sues Over Embezzled Money

PONTIAC, Mich. (CN) – A national training program for the United Auto Workers filed a lawsuit against former Fiat Chrysler officials, seeking to recover more than $4 million that it says they stole.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

“Despite his fiduciary responsibilities, defendant Alphons Iacobelli embezzled and converted to his own use or to the personal use of others at least $2,661,189 of [UAW-Chrysler National Training Center] assets, while hiding his activities from members of the NTC internal accounting staff and others,” according to the 20-page lawsuit filed Friday in Oakland County, Michigan Court Circuit by attorney Michelle Harrell of the firm Maddin Hauser.

The UAW-Chrysler Skill Development and Training Program – doing business as the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center or NTC – sued Iacobelli, a former Fiat Chrysler Autmobiles vice president, as well as Iacobelli’s wife Susanne, former FCA controller Jerome Durden and Monica Morgan, the widow of former UAW boss General Holiefield.

The NTC is a joint labor management committee that provides training to FCA employees represented by UAW. It also conducts health and safety audits and provides other employee-related services, which were approved by the union and auto giant through collective bargaining.

It claims that Iacobelli, Durden and others – who had management roles in the NTC by virtue of their positions with FCA – “conspired to encourage and cause the improper use of NTC credit cards and payments on a Chase Bank credit card for personal use.”

According to the complaint, those personal expenses included “improper payment of a student loan for the daughter of Alphons and Susanne Iacobelli using NTC funds, purchases of extravagant luxury items such as a Ferrari, limited edition Mont Blanc pens, a swimming pool, spa, landscaping and an outdoor kitchen at the Iacobellis’ home and the home of defendant Morgan and Holiefield, and the payment of defendant Suanne Iacobelli’s American Express credit card charges even though she was not an NTC employee and for personal items not related to NTC business.”

The lawsuit says the two limited edition Mont Blanc pens cost over $75,000, while Iacobelli spent more than $350,000 on a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider.

More than $500,000 of the NTC’s money allegedly went to swimming pools and landscaping at the defendants’ homes, and $260,000 was used to pay Morgan’s home mortgage, according to the complaint.

“The NTC was unaware of defendants’ illegal activities due to the active concealment of such activities by then-NTC fiduciaries Alphons Iacobelli and Jerome Durden, in whom the NTC reposed trust and faith that such defendants were properly performing their fiduciary duties,” the lawsuit states.

Durden allegedly changed the security settings for the NTC accounting software to hide credit card charges and refused to give credit card payment information when requested by NTC officials.

Iacobelli pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act and filing a false tax return.

Durden and Morgan both pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. All three defendants await sentencing.

The NTC seeks a judgment of $2.6 million against Alphons Iacobelli, $1.1 million against Susanne Iacobelli, $539,000 against Morgan and $70,000 against Durden, for a total of $4.4 million. It asserts claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy and unjust enrichment.

The NTC’s attorney, Harrell, did not immediately respond Monday to an email request for comment.

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