Retired Detroit cop convicted in bribery scheme involving towing companies

Nov 17, 2021 at 2:55 pm
click to enlarge A Detroit police squad car. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
A Detroit police squad car.

A retired Detroit cop pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in federal court in Detroit on Tuesday, becoming the second person to be convicted in a broadening towing scandal.

Alonzo Jones, 55, of Detroit, faces up 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced on March 15.

Jones, who resigned in 2009 after overseeing the Detroit Police Vehicle Auction, accepted about $3,200 in cash bribes from July 2019 to May 2021 in exchange for falsifying state forms that enabled a confidential source and undercover agent to take ownership of abandoned vehicles, prosecutors said. State law requires those vehicles to be sold at a public auction.

“Investigating and prosecuting bad cops is a top priority for our office because bad cops erode the public’s trust in law enforcement,” Acting US Attorney Mohsin said in a statement. “The vast majority of police officers are honest, dedicated, and hard-working individuals. But police officers who line their pockets with bribes, no matter how big or small will be held accountable for their actions.”

The guilty plea comes a month after two other Detroit cops were charged with bribery.

Lt. John F. Kennedy, 56, of Rochester Hills, and Officer Daniel Vickers, 54, of Livonia, are accused of accepting bribes from an unidentified towing company. In return for the bribes, they steered towing work to the company, prosecutors allege.

“A law enforcement officer accepting bribes undermines the rule of law and will always be vigorously investigated,” Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said in a statement.

The FBI investigation, dubbed Operation Northern Hook, is also targeting ties between the towing industry and Detroit city council members Scott Benson and Janeé Ayers and former councilman Andre Spivey, who resigned in September after he pleaded guilty to conspiring with an unidentified staff member to commit bribery.

Spivey and the staff member collected more than $35,000 in cash bribes from an undercover agent or confidential informant on eight different occasions between 2018 and 2020, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The FBI raided the homes and offices of Benson and Ayers on Aug. 25. They have not yet been charged.

In the general election earlier this month, Ayers lost her seat.

In a previous towing scandal, Detroit Police Officer Deonne Dotson, who was sentenced to 80 months in federal prison in July, was the last of six cops to be sentenced in an extortion scheme. The others – Charles Wills, James Robertson, Jamil Martin, Martin Tutt, and Anthony Careathers – have served time in federal prison.

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