Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D), already serving a five-year prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation on earlier charges, now faces charges of running a “criminal ring” with his father and two aides, which collected millions of dollars in bribes for rigging municipal contracts.
A federal grand jury handed up a 38-count indictment Dec. 15 against Kilpatrick, his father and two aides following a six-year investigation.
According to the indictment Kilpatrick, 40, his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, city contractor Bobby Ferguson, former top Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former water department chief Victor Mercado extorted money from municipal contractors, state and non-profit donors and engaged in bribery and extortion involving other public contracts and investments.
Prosecutors have labeled the scheme the “Kilpatrick Enterprise” and say they will apply provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—also used to prosecute organized crime—against the once-promising Michigan leader and former state legislature.
The indictment cites one episode, for example, in which contractor Bobby Ferguson, was allegedly given tens of millions of dollars for work that he never performed or for contracts that were awarded through extortion.
In another element of what is being labeled by prosecutors a criminal enterprise, money donated to a non-profit entity run by Kilpatrick and intended for children and senior citizens was diverted to pay for yoga classes, spa treatments and golf clubs. Kilpatrick also allegedly deposited $500,000 in unexplained cash deposits in his bank account while his father allegedly deposited $600,000 into his private account.
Barbara L. McQuade, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said the defendants used the power and authority of Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices to unjustly enrich not only themselves but also their families and associates at the expense of taxpayers and donors.
“Kwame Kilpatrick abused his position as a state representative as well as his position as mayor of Detroit through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud, “ McQuade said at a Dec. 15 press conference.
“This is a lengthy indictment covers a wide-ranging and sweeping pattern of racketeering, extortion and abuse of public trust.”
If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Kilpatrick’s attorney James Thomas said his client remains upbeat. “We look forward to fighting this case,” Thomas told the Detroit Free Press. “I’ve talked to my client, who is up for the fight. We expect that he’s going to be vindicated at trial as well.”
Kilpatrick had been regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party when first elected in 2001 and sat at the helm of Detroit until he was forced out amid scandal in 2008, according to Reuters.
He was sentenced to up to five years in prison May 25 for violating the terms of his probation after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice conviction. He is serving the sentence in a federal prison in Milan, Mich.