Kilpatrick’s aide to cooperate with prosecutors in corruption case

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Marc Andre Cunningham, the top aide to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has apparently agreed to cooperate with government prosecutors in their city hall corruption case against the disgraced mayor, according to The Detroit News.

An order signed by U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen pushed back the hearing date for Cunningham’s sentencing to April 14, signaling that the one-time top city hall official was ready to turn against his friend and former frat-house brother. The date is one day after a status conference hearing on the criminal case against Kilpatrick.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to charges that he took $300,000 in commissions from an investment firm that he helped secure $30 million of city pension funds to manage. Cunningham admitted that he paid a portion of the commission to Kilpatrick’s father Bernard, as a bribe to make the deal happen.

After the transaction, Cunningham was made Kilpatrick’s executive assistant. Later he was appointed head of the Detroit Film Office.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bribery, and faces up to 37 months in prison.

The Detroit News

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Former Mich. State Rep. Mary Waters backtracks on corruption guilty plea

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After pleading guilty last year in a corruption case involving her then-boyfriend, convicted Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle, former politician state Rep. Mary Waters has changed her mind and wants the plea reversed.

Waters, 55, pleaded guilty for her role in a bribery case in which Riddle allegedly took $45,000 in cash, and a $5,500 Breitling watch, for his help in getting an approval from the city of Southfield, Michigan, for the relocation of a jewelry store and pawnshop. As part of the arrangement, Waters received a $6,000 Rolex watch.

A Southfield city councilman, William Lattimore, was paid a $12,500 bribe by the couple to push the approval through Southfield city council.

Waters and Riddle were indicted in July 2009 by a grand jury investigating widespread corruption in Kwame Kilpatrick’s city hall administration.

Riddle pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and extortion, and is serving a 37-month sentence in federal prison.

As part of a plea deal, Waters claimed the Rolex was a gift from Riddle, and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax return. She was sentenced to one year’s probation.

Waters filed a brief on Friday claiming her Constitutional rights were violated, and wants the plea arrangement overturned.

In the court papers, Waters court-appointed lawyer, Melvin Houston, said that her Six Amendment rights to effective legal representation were violated, that U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani failed to establish a factual basis for her guilty plea and it was unfair to make her guilty plea part of an overall plea deal involving Riddle.

The legal brief asks that the conviction be set aside, and for a new plea and sentencing hearing.

Information from: The Detroit News

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Detroit School Board member “bugged” confidential legal settlement meeting

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As though Detroit’s public school system doesn’t have enough issues to deal with, apparently at least one of its school board members is trying to secretly sabotage its efforts to reach a legal settlement with embattled Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

In happier times: Detroit School Board President Anthony Adams and Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

The espionage was detailed in a memo sent by school board president Anthony Adams to all the board members, saying that during a “closed door” meeting to confidentially discuss a settlement, at least one board member had their cell phone turned on to send the 2-hour discussion to “outside community participants.”

The memo said in part “Such conduct is not to be tolerated. We need to do things in private.  To intrude on our process that way shows a tremendous level of disrespect.” The memo did not contain the name of the offending board member.

One board member, Dr. Carla Scott said “If it’s true, they should be sanctioned. I have no idea why someone would do something so inappropriate, so juvenile and unprofessional. I hope it’s not true,” she said.

The settlement with Bobb follows a ruling in December by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter, in which she said that Bobb overstepped his authority by making academic decisions that should have been made by the school board. The decision came as the result of a year-long civil lawsuit brought by the school board against Bobb.

Bobb was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in March 2009 to deal with the district’s ongoing financial crisis. This year, the school system is expected to have a budget deficit of over $325 million.

Bobb was given a one-year contract that was extended through March 2011.

The Detroit News

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Feds sue Kilpatrick associate for $16.4 million

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Federal prosecutors filed forfeiture papers over the weekend, seeking more than $16.4 million from Bobby Ferguson, the contractor friend of ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Ferguson was indicted in September on charges of bid-rigging a $12 million contract connected to a Detroit affordable housing development.

Officials are looking to recover more than $3.9 million in cash, checks and certificates of deposit seized or frozen by authorities, as well as two handguns and ammunition.

In addition, if Ferguson and his co-defendants are convicted, the government wants damages of $12.5 million, the amount they received on the bid-rigged housing contract.

Ferguson’s co-defendants are all executives at companies owned by Ferguson, and include Shakib Deria, vice president of A&F Environmental/Johnson Construction Services; Michael Woodhouse, president of Xcel Construction and Calvin Hall, vice president of Xcel Construction.

Separately, in December, Ferguson was indicted on charges of extortion, bribery and fraud over construction contracts involving city sewer and water main work, in which millions of dollars were diverted to Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s father and other city hall insiders.

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Ex-Detroit mayor and cronies arraigned on 38 counts of corruption

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and three other men were arraigned on Monday in U.S. District Court, on federal racketeering and corruption charges.

Disgraced ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick has his most difficult legal struggle ahead of him, perhaps in 2012.

Kilpatrick is currently serving time in federal prison in Milan, Mich. on a parole violation charge. Instead of the typical prison uniform, Kilpatrick appeared in a coat and tie, although he appeared to have lost some weight and sported a bushy beard.

Kilpatrick appeared to be in good spirits, joking around with his fellow co-defendants and blowing air kisses to his sister in the courtroom audience. All five men entered non-guilty pleas to U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon. All but Kilpatrick were released on $10,000 bail.

Observers say the current charges are the most serious brought to date against Kilpatrick, 40, who was considered a rising star in Michigan politics until forced to resign in 2008, after state convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice.

In mid-December, a 17-member federal grand jury indicted Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, former mayoral aide Derrick A Miller, Kilpatrick close friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson and former Detroit water chief Victor Mercado.

The 89-page indictment described a culture in which Kilpatrick orchestrated million dollar schemes to steer city business to contractors who would pay kickbacks to Kilpatrick and his group. The U.S. Attorney’s Detroit office filed 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.

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.

Ferguson is a close friend of Kwame Kilpatrick and a hauling and construction contractor. He was previously indicted in September on separate charges of bid-rigging a $12 million contract connected to a HUD affordable housing project in the Detroit area.

Bernard Kilpatrick was involved in the corruption schemes through a consulting firm, Maestro Associates LLC, which 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 Kilpatrick group, called Kilpatrick Enterprises by prosecutors,  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.

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Jailed political consultant, who pleaded guilty, wants taxpayers to fund his appeal

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A prominent figure in the Detroit city hall corruption scandal led by Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has asked U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani to approve his request for a court appointed lawyer to appeal his guilty plea.

Pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion charges, now wants taxpayers to pay for a lawyer to appeal his conviction.

Political consultant and top aide to former Detroit councilwoman Monica Conyers, Sam Riddle pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion in July 2010, and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Riddle has been in federal custody since May 2010, and in October, filed a notice to appeal.

Judge Battani rejected the pleading saying that Riddle failed to prove that he was unable to pay for the cost of a lawyer, because on the application, he simply wrote “indigent.” She said that once he properly files the forms, that the court could begin reviewing the application and make a decision.

Conyers, wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, also pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion charges and is also serving a 37 month prison sentence. Like Riddle, she too has decided to change her guilty plea, saying she was pressured by her own lawyer, prosecutors and the media.

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Businessman latest to plead guilty in Detroit City Hall corruption scandal

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Andrew Park, 46, is the latest figure in the Kilpatrick city hall corruption scandal to plead guilty to charges in Detroit U.S District Court. Property developer and businessman Park, admitted to hiding income totaling $898,000 from three companies controlled by him: Asian Village, Pangborn Technovations Inc. and Security Communication Alert Network.

Park’s tax evasion charges were a byproduct of an FBI investigation of business dealings with former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s high school buddy, Derrick A. Miller.  After Kilpatrick was elected mayor in 2002, he appointed Miller as his chief aide and subsequently chief information officer. Miller resigned in 2007 to start his own firm.

In 2008, FBI agents raided the home of Park taking records and computers, looking for evidence of payments to Miller. Investors in a failed real estate development, Asian Village, told authorities that they believed Park was paying bribes to Miller for his help in steering money and business to Park and his ventures. The city helped fund the Asian Village project, providing a $2.75 million loan from the General Retirement System Fund.

In another transaction involving Miller, Park’s company Security Alert Communication Network was given a $4 million city contract to install security cameras in downtown Detroit using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His company was paid in full, but failed to complete the project.

Prosecutors say that Park failed to report income from the ventures, and then claimed that the receipts were loans. The unpaid tax amounts to over $300,000. In addition to the taxes, he faces up to $100,000 in fines and five years in prison.

Miller was charged last week as part of group of city hall insiders, including Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, close friend Bobby Ferguson, and former Detroit water chief Victor Mercado. The U.S Attorney’s office announced a 38-count indictment against the men, charging them with extortion, bribery and fraud.

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.

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