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UPDATE 1-UAW official charged with conspiring to embezzle union funds

Nick Carey and David Shepardson

(Adds no immediate UAW comment, background)

DETROIT/WASHINGTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - A senior member of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union was arrested on Thursday and charged with conspiring with other union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in union money as a widening scandal expands just days before the union's contract expires with U.S. automakers.

Vance Pearson, 58, of St. Charles, Missouri, a member of the union's International Executive Board and a regional director, was charged after search warrants were executed by the FBI last week at a number of locations, including at Pearson's UAW office and at current UAW President Gary Jones' Michigan home, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said.

Jones has not been charged with wrongdoing. The charges come as the UAW's contract with Detroit's Big Three automakers is set to expire on Sept. 14.

The UAW did not immediately comment.

The complaint notes that Pearson became "second in command" of Region 5 in January 2016, which was headed by Jones at the time.

The complaint said between 2014 and 2018 Pearson and other UAW officials "submitted fraudulent expense forms seeking reimbursement from the UAW's Detroit headquarters for expenditures supposedly incurred in connection with Region 5 leadership and training conferences" but "used the conferences to conceal the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds to pay for lavish entertainment and personal spending for the conspirators."

To date, nine people have pleaded guilty in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives and corruption within the UAW itself.

Last week, former UAW official Michael Grimes pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Grimes was an official in the union's General Motors Co department until his retirement in July 2018. (Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Ben Klayman and Nick Carey in Detroit Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)