Bernie’s back!

We read with great interest last week’s Free Press story disclosing that a piece of land that sold for $6 million less than a year ago is about to be bought by the Detroit school district for $17 million.

Everyone knows that property values in the city are appreciating at a terrific pace, but we had no idea the market was that hot.

Then we saw that our old friend Bernie Schrott was involved in the deal, and everything started making sense.

According to the Freep, Joe Nederlander — the entertainment mogul whose family essentially runs the Michigan State Fairgrounds — bought 35 acres of largely vacant land on the southeast corner of Woodward and 8 Mile for $6.1 million from the State of Michigan last year. When Nederlander’s attempt to build an auto race track — which featured Schrott as the project’s spokesman — fell through, he sold the property for $10.5 million to an investment group headed by Schrott, who turned around and struck a “tentative” deal to sell the same property to Detroit Public Schools for $17 million.

All in all, a nice scoop on the part of the Freep. The only thing missing there — as well as in a column by the News’ Pete Waldmeir — was a bit of information about Schrott’s history, which suggests cause for concern.

Apparently, the Metro Times isn’t on anyone’s reading list over at the Freep. Nor, it seems, are the people in a decision-making capacity at Detroit Public Schools paying much attention to this fine rag of ours.

If they had, they would have known what we reported in a story titled “Six Degrees of Bernie Schrott.” (MT, Aug. 16-22, 2000)

That detailed investigative piece revealed that Schrott figured prominently in the 1995 case of accused cocaine dealer Felix Walls. During the trial, one of the government’s lead witnesses testified that Schrott, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, laundered money for a ring that smuggled a million dollars worth of cocaine a month into Michigan during the 1980s. Invoices showed that several people accused of playing major roles in the drug ring had credit cards issued to them through Schrott’s American Express account. An FBI agent also testified that Schrott shared an office for about six years in the late ’80s and early ’90s with Vito William Giacalone, who has long been alleged to be one of metro Detroit’s Mafia leaders.

In addition to all that, in another court case a group of investors sued Schrott, claiming he defrauded them in a Bahamian casino deal that never materialized. The suit was eventually settled when Schrott agreed to refund more than $100,000 to investors, but not before an Oakland County judge opined that Schrott appeared to have used false claims to lure people into the deal.

Schrott, for the record, denied any and all wrongdoing during several interviews with this rag.

“I’ve never even been charged with a misdemeanor,” he told us at the time.

So that the news hounds over at the Freep can do more than describe Schrott as merely a “developer” in the future, News Hits plans to fax a copy of our story. We’ll also send a copy along to the Detroit Public Schools, so that officials there can get up to speed on just who it is they are doing business with.

After all, the article did say it was a “tentative” deal, right?

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail [email protected]
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