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Former Fiat Chrysler executive charged in U.S. in payoff scheme

WASHINGTON July 26 (Reuters) - A former Fiat Chrysler vice president was indicted on Wednesday for making $1.2 million in improper payments to a former union vice president and his wife, authorities said.

Fiat Chrysler said in a statement the automaker and the United Auto Workers union were the victims of malfeasance by certain of their respective employees. ... These egregious acts were neither known to nor sanctioned by (Fiat Chrysler)."

The UAW said it had hired independent outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations.

Alphons Iacobelli, 57, a former Fiat Chrysler vice president of employee relations, was charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with taking part in a multiyear conspiracy to pay prohibited money and gifts to UAW officials.

"Today's indictment exposes a disturbing criminal collaboration that was ongoing for years between high ranking officials of FCA and the UAW," David Gelios, head of the Detroit FBI office, said in a statement.

A lawyer for Iacobelli, David DuMouchel, declined to comment. Iacobelli, who left Fiat Chrysler in 2015 after a company investigation found evidence of wrongdoing, is expected to be arraigned next week.

Also charged was Monica Morgan, the wife of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who died in March 2015. The alleged payments included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture, and paying off the $262,219 mortgage on Holiefield's and Morgans residence and were made between 2009 and 2014.

Steve Fishman, a lawyer for Morgan, declined to comment

The alleged payments, made using the bank account and credit card accounts of the Detroit-based UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC), came when Iacobelli and Holiefield had primary responsibility for negotiating and administering the collective bargaining agreements. A former financial analyst who served as the controller of the NTC was also charged.

The UAW said it had no knowledge of the fraudulent activities until notified by the government. "We nevertheless take responsibility for not doing more to exert our influence over the governance policies of the NTC, which might have uncovered this corruption sooner," the UAW said.

The NTC is a separate entity from the UAW that receives no union dues, but the alleged abuses "dishonored the union and the values we have upheld for more than 80 years," the union said.

Fiat Chrysler said it had worked with the UAW "to implement governance, auditing and structural reforms to improve the accountability and transparency of the NTC."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)