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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Details surface on ex-Florida GOP chairman’s corruption charges

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The former executive director of the Florida Republican Party, Delmar Johnson, was president, secretary and treasurer of a phony company called Victory Strategies that was used to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations, and funnel them to himself and former state GOP chairman Jim Greer, according to newly-released documents.

The Miami Herald reported Saturday that Victory Strategies collected nearly $240,000 in nine months during 2009, before GOP finance officials began questioning Greer about the company in December 2009. During the same period, the company paid eleven checks to Greer totaling $164,101 and paid Johnson $65,093. At Jan. 31, 2010, the company’s bank account had a balance of about $10,000.

Greer, 47, was arrested in June for running a scam to steal money from the Florida GOP. He was charged with six counts of organized scheme to defraud, four counts of felony grand theft and one count of money laundering.

Greer owned 60 percent of Victory and Johnson owned the other 40 percent of the company. Authorities said that the company had no other business than to take a commission from political contributions to the Florida GOP and pay the amounts to Greer and Johnson.

Donors and major party activists had been critical of Greer after reports surfaced of lavish spending on parties, expensive dinners, luxury hotels and private jets.

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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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Miami cop arrested for stealing 10,000 Bluetooth headsets

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A Miami cop, already under investigation for two fatal police shootings over the summer, was arrested on Thursday for receipt and possession of stolen goods.  Ricardo Martinez, 40, faces 10 years in prison if convicted on the charge.

Martinez is a 12-year veteran of the force. A Miami police spokeswoman, Kenia Reyes, said that Martinez was suspended with pay while the investigation is pending.

Officials say that Martinez stole the headsets off a truck that was transporting the merchandise from Chicago to Miami. The company handling the shipment is owned by Martinez’s wife.

Martinez had teamed up with a man who at one time was incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, where Martinez formerly worked. FBI agents approached the man on Wednesday, and he agreed to be a confidential source. While agents met with the man, Martinez called several times discussing possible buyers for the merchandise.

The man told agents he had “an agreement with a MPD officer to steal a shipment of 10,000 Bluetooth headsets” and that they planned to sell them for $10 each. Martinez was planning to make about $40,000 on the deal.

On Thursday, the informant and Martinez drove to a house where they loaded the headsets into a vehicle provided by the FBI.  Agents on the scene arrested him.

The Miami Herald

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Former Atlanta cop sentenced in drug dealer protection case

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A former Atlanta cop was sentenced on Thursday to 12 years in prison on drug and corruption charges.

Lucius T. Solomon III pleaded guilty to charges that he took $2,000 in protection monies three separate times in 2009 and 2010 from drug dealers. Solomon, 32, was on the Atlanta force for nine years.

Solomon was originally charged with attempting to sell 5 kilograms of cocaine and possessing a firearm while involved in the sale of illegal drugs. When arrested, he was under video surveillance.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Solomon was attempting to sell the cocaine to an undercover FBI agent when he was caught. Prosecutors claim that Solomon worked the deals when in street clothes, and out of his police cruiser when he was in uniform.

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Detroit grand jury indicts former mayor Kilpatrick’s fraud and corruption ring

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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.

Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit's mayor from 2002 through 2008, is currently serving time in a federal prison for violating parole in another case.

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.

The Detroit News

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Vermont city gets into cable business, now facing criminal charges and insolvency

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Voters in Burlington, Vermont were sold a bill of goods ten years ago, when city leaders convinced them they could do a better job of providing telephone, Internet and cable TV service to residents. Voters passed a measure putting the city in the telecommunications business, something that they knew nothing about, with the launch of Burlington Telecom.

Ten years later, the business is bankrupt and the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation over how $17 million in city funds were illegally funneled into the operation. The private lender for the business, Citicorp, is threatening to repossess the equipment, after BT defaulted on the loan.

The City of Burlington, Vermont thought they could do a better and cheaper job providing cable and Internet to its residents. Now, it's broke and under criminal investigation.

In the year 2000, Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, decided that it shouldn’t wait for private provider of telecommunication services to bring fiber optics to the community. Officials felt that it could a better job, and since its left-leaning population would much prefer a public provider over private provider, they were convinced that they would get plenty of customers.

Once the system was built however, the system failed to sign up the required number of subscribers needed to make the venture profitable. Burlington’s sign up rate only managed to hit about 30 percent with residential customers, with the corporate rate much lower.

Critics familiar with Burlington’s problems point out how unaccustomed cities are to providing customer service in the same manner as competitive private enterprises. Consultants also claim that BT overpaid to build the system, and that it runs day-to-day operations poorly.

At the core of BT’s problems are its failure to maintain a sufficient customer base, and the amount of debt that it took on to build the system. The current outstanding debt totals $50.5 million, with $33.5 being owed to a lending arm of Citibank. The city’s failure to keep current on the debt has put it in default with Citicorp, and the lender has notified it that it intends to seek return of the equipment securing the loan.

A far more serious problem exists with the lender of the other $17 million of debt: the city of Burlington itself. When the city decided to get into the telecommunications business, the Vermont legislature approved the venture, providing that the city agree not to use any taxpayer funds.

In September 2009, BT notified the Vermont Public Services Board that the city had illegally provided $17 million in city funds to cover operating losses. Both the state and FBI are conducting criminal investigations for the misuse of public funds and a decision on criminal charges is expected soon.

Considering that the other telecommunications provider in the area is Comcast, the future of BT looks bleak.

The Associated Press

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