Gary Jones addressing delegates to the union’s bargaining convention in Detroit in March 2019.



Photo:

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Federal prosecutors have charged former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones with conspiracy to embezzle union funds, making him the highest-ranking ex-union official to be ensnared in the Justice Department’s yearslong corruption probe.

Mr. Jones, who led the UAW through contract negotiations late last year with the Detroit car makers and a 40-day strike at General Motors Co., is alleged to have been a part of a group of senior UAW leaders who embezzled more than $1 million to pay for private villas, liquor, golf and other luxuries, according to charging documents filed with a Michigan federal court and made public Thursday.

Prosecutors say the alleged misconduct, spanning from 2010 to last September, was part of a racketeering scheme that violated federal laws. Mr. Jones is now the 14th person charged in the federal probe, which became public in July 2017 and has resulted in more than a dozen convictions, including of two former UAW vice presidents.

Mr. Jones couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A UAW spokesman didn’t have an immediate comment.

Mr. Jones, elected to lead the UAW in June 2018, resigned abruptly late last year as the UAW’s governing board was seeking to remove him over allegations he and another top union official provided false and misleading expense reports to the accounting department. At the time, his lawyer said Mr. Jones was voluntarily stepping down.

The charges are the latest escalation in the government’s probe and come as the union is struggling to reverse membership declines and win back the trust of rank-and-file workers, whose confidence in senior leadership has been dented by the expanding federal investigation.

Write to Ben Foldy at Ben.Foldy@wsj.com

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