Vance Pearson, a 17-year UAW employee who rose to the position of Region 5 director in Missouri last year, has been charged by federal authorities with embezzlement.

Pearson and other board members are accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union to spend on villas in Palm Springs, cigars, liquor, and lavish meals.

Although Pearson is one of the only people named by officials, the Detroit Free Press reports that former president Dennis Williams (pictured above) and current president Gary Jones are two of the four unnamed union officials implicated in this criminal complaint.

"Our highest priority is maintaining the trust and confidence of United Auto Worker members," wrote the UAW in a statement on Thursday. "While these allegations are very concerning, we strongly believe that the government has misconstrued any number of facts and emphasize that these are merely allegations, not proof of wrongdoing. Regardless, we will not let this distract us from the critical negotiations underway with GM to gain better wages and benefits for the more the 400,000 members of our union."

GM, meanwhile, wrote that it was "outraged and deeply concerned," in a statement.

The board members are accused of submitting fraudulent expense reports and of using union funds extravagantly, including more than $60,000 on cigars (and paraphernalia) between 2014-2018.

The unsealing of the criminal charges comes just two days before a union contract deadline with the big three and could complicate negotiations.

source: Automotive News