More than 40 public and private officials charged in federal investigations in Michigan... so far

More than 40 public and private officials charged in federal investigations in Michigan... so far

Fifteen cops. Five suburban trustees. A former state senator. Millionaire moguls.

They're among more than 40 public and private officials charged as part of a long-running and expanding federal investigation into public corruption in metro Detroit.

The charges range from extortion and money laundering to bribery and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Some defendants have been sentenced; others are awaiting trial or cooperating with authorities.

And this could just be the beginning.

There's Mayor Mike Duggan's demolition program, which has been the subject of a wide-ranging grand jury investigation into the handling of more than $200 million of federal funds to knock down vacant homes. The allegations run the spectrum, from bid-rigging and fraud to conspiracy and fabricating records. So far, subpoenas have sought documents relating to the Detroit Land Bank, Building Authority, and the Mayor's office.

Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland was indicted in October 2018 for allegedly soliciting bribes. During a deposition in June 2018, Leland refused to say whether he accepted a bribe from Duggan's friend and key campaign supporter, Dennis Archer Jr.

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, who is under a county ethics probe, is also under investigation for real estate transactions after his family participated in foreclosure auctions, a violation of the tax auction rules. 

In the latest raid last month, the FBI searched Taylor City Hall and the home, office, and chalet of Mayor Rick Sollars. Agents also raided the home and office of Realty Transition owner Shady Awad, a real estate mogul with contracts in at least 15 other metro Detroit communities. Sollar's chief of staff, Robert Dickerson, resigned after the FBI interviewed him during the raid. Taylor Police Corporal Matthew Minard was also suspended.

Then there's the "target subjects" named in federal records that were accidentally unsealed in December 2017. They include Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans, resigned state Rep. Brian Banks, retired state Rep. Albert Tinsley-Talabi, former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, ex-Detroit cop Morris Joseph, and more than a handful of private contractors.

All of this happened after disgraced, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison for racketeering, bribery, extortion, and tax crimes in October 2013.

"Public corruption erodes the trust that our citizens have in our governments, so it's important that we investigate all of these allegations," Jeffrey Downey, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit office, tells Metro Times. "We spend a considerable amount of time and resources investigating public corruption."

Bombarded with allegations of corruption in 2012, the FBI assembled the Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, a team composed of local, state and federal law enforcement.

At the time, Andrew G. Arena, the then-special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit office, declared war on corruption, saying it had become a "generational, systemic part of the culture" of southeast Michigan.

"Those who betray that trust must be brought to justice and such actions cannot be tolerated," Arena said in 2012.

The task force didn't mess around, first targeting Macomb County.

Central to the investigation were trash titan Chuck Rizzo and towing mogul Gasper Fiore, both of whom were sentenced to prison for bribing public officials. In exchange for a more lenient sentence, both men wore a wire to help the feds ensnare public officials.

In the past year, the investigation ended in prison sentences for former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds, former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas, Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock, and New Haven trustees Christopher Craigmiles and Brett Harris. Engineering contractors Paulin Modi and James Pistilli also were sentenced to prison for bribing public officials.

In Detroit, then-Deputy Police Chief Celia Washington was charged with accepting bribes from two towers, including Fiore, to get more business. Washington also accepted $2,400 in repairs on her personal car and $800 for drinks at her birthday party at a Granite City restaurant.

Six Detroit cops ­— Charles Wills, Jamil Martin, Deonne Dotson, James Robertson, Martin Tutt, and Anthony Careathers — were charged with accepting bribes in exchange for referring cars to collision shops and writing false police reports. Five of them were sentenced to between one and two years in prison, and Dotson is awaiting trial.

One of those collision shops, Livernois Collision in Detroit, is owned by Daniel Dabish, who is accused of bribery, defrauding auto and insurance companies.

In an unrelated case in October, Detroit Police Officer Christopher Stanton is accused of helping a group of drug traffickers distribute heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine. He is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and making a false statement.

In a case that originated from the multi-agency task force, seven current and former police officers in metro Detroit are accused of signing off on more than 100 Secretary of State documents that falsely indicated salvage cars were inspected and certified.

Last year, federal authorities told reporters that Oakland and Wayne counties are the next targets in bribery schemes.

The FBI declined to comment on current cases but said the public corruption investigation will remain "a top priority."

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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