A 17-member federal grand jury indicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, former mayoral aide Derrick A Miller, Kilpatrick close friend Bobby Ferguson and former Detroit water chief Victor Mercado.
The U.S. Attorney’s Detroit office announced the 38-count indictment, charging the group with racketeering conspiracy and accusing them with extortion, bribery and fraud. “Tens of millions of dollars of municipal contracts” were steered to Ferguson using coercion exerted by Kilpatrick’s office.
Ferguson is a close friend of Kwame Kilpatrick and a hauling and construction contractor. He was previously indicted in September on charges of bid-rigging a $12 million contract connected to a HUD affordable housing project in the Detroit area.
The government brought charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act which makes it easier to sue interconnected entities in complex cases. A RICO case, often used in instances of organized crime, also provides harsher sentencing provisions and recovery of triple damages.
The FBI said that it has been investigating the case for six years, and alleges that some of the corruption can be traced back to when the younger Kilpatrick was a state representative, prior to his election as mayor in 2001. The FBI says that its investigation of the Kilpatrick-era city hall corruption is not over.
Besides the FBI, other agencies involved in the investigation include the criminal division of the IRS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Bernard Kilpatrick was involved in the corruption schemes through a consulting firm, Maestro Associates LLC, that he started around the time his son was elected mayor. He was part of the team including Kwame Kilpatrick, Derrick Miller and Victor Mercado that regularly extorted monies from legitimate contractors involved in city sewer and water main work, often steering a portion of the contract to pal Bobby Ferguson. In some cases, Ferguson received big fees for doing no work at all.
The government alleges that Ferguson kicked back over $420,000 to Kilpatrick and his father Bernard, and said Bernard Kilpatrick deposited more than $600,000 in cash into his personal bank accounts while his son served as the mayor of Detroit from 2002 through 2008.
Most of the contracts were valued in the tens of millions of dollars, although the men tried to extort a company into giving Ferguson a large piece of a $140 million contract for a new pumping station. The group also worked together in instances of rig-bidding, so that Ferguson would be guaranteed contract wins by manipulating the bidding process.
Kilpatrick resigned from office in 2008 after being charged with 10 felonies, including perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served 99 days in jail, but was sent back for violating the terms of his parole. He is currently serving time in federal prison in Milan, Michigan.