Detroit City Hall and Council members’ homes raided by FBI in corruption probe

Robert Snell

The Detroit News

Detroit — FBI agents were executing search warrants at the homes of Detroit City Council members Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson and at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Wednesday morning, the latest escalation of a federal corruption investigation that has already led to charges against Councilman Andre Spivey.

The searches come three weeks after Spivey was arraigned in federal court on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery over claims he accepted more than $35,000 to be “influenced and rewarded” for votes.

Ayers, 39, is seeking a second, four-year term as an at-large council member in the Nov. 2 general election. Benson, 51, was unopposed in this month’s primary and also advanced to the general election. He is seeking a third term representing northeast Detroit in District 3.

Ayers was seen outside her home Wednesday. A Detroit News reporter was stopped by police as she tried to approach the councilwoman. Outside Benson’s house in Harper Woods, a large black SUV was parked in the driveway and a Michigan State Police car remained in the street as a group of agents gathered near the front porch. Some of the agents were wearing gloves. When a Detroit News reporter arrived, they all went into the house.

Wednesday’s raids represent the largest federal investigation into City Hall corruption in the eight years since former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. President Trump commuted the sentence in January.

In the Spivey case, federal authorities contend he and another unnamed official, identified in filings as “Public Official A,” accepted bribes in exchange for votes on the Detroit City Council and in subcommittees from 2016 to 2020.

Specifically, the longtime city councilman and the member of his staff are accused of accepting more than $35,000 in bribe payments to be “influenced and rewarded” for votes on the council and in subcommittees “concerning an industry under review by the council,” according to federal authorities.

The document notes the findings are “concerning an industry under review by the council” but few additional details have emerged since Spivey was charged with a crime.

Spivey was charged last week in a criminal information, which means he waived his right to a grand jury indictment. The case was assigned to Judge Linda V. Parker, though no hearing date has been set.

If found guilty, Spivey could serve up to five years in prison and pay a fine of up to $250,000.

The U.S. attorney alleges that Spivey, 47, accepted a $1,000 cash bribe from an undercover law enforcement agent on Oct. 26, 2018.

Spivey is the second Detroit councilman this term accused of accepting bribes in favor of votes at the council table. This spring, Gabe Leland resigned from the council after pleading guilty to a state charge of misconduct in office and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ probation.

The 38-year-old Leland was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a Detroit businessman in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal.

The state case came after Leland was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018 on bribery conspiracy and two counts of bribery stemming from the allegations. The federal case against Leland was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

The Detroit council has long been mired in other public corruption cases.

In 2006, former Detroit councilman Alonzo “Lonnie” Bates was convicted of theft and bank fraud for placing “ghost employees” on his payroll. Bates was sentenced to 33 months in prison for taking $800,000 in bribes while he was a member of the Detroit School Board.

Former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers and former Councilwoman Kay Everett also were convicted of taking bribes while in office.

Conyers pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2010 and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for accepting money in exchange for her vote on a $1 billion sludge-hauling deal. At the time of her death in 2004, Everett was under indictment for taking a bribe from a city contractor, who flavored the deal with 17 pounds of sausage.

Former council President Charles Pugh resigned in 2013, months after leaving city hall amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and was sentenced to 5 1/2 to 15 years in prison.

This month, Pugh was granted parole by the state’s parole board. He will be released from prison in December.


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