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Topic: The never ending Rizzo Trash deal
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El Supremo

Asphalt repair project leads to latest federal charges in Macomb County

Jim Kiertzner
6:22 PM, Aug 31, 2017

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) - It started out as a simple project to repair asphalt in the parking lot of the Macomb Township Hall.

Four bids were submitted by contractors and one was recommended to get the work for $103,950.

But a year later, a company that did not big was paid $254,000 for the same job. And after that, he was given a second parking lot job for another 264,000.

The documents were among several obtained in a FOIA request to the township by former Supervisor Mark Grabow because he thought the projects didn’t add up.

On Monday, the feds charged Chris Sorrentino in a case that alleges he did no work, was paid and gave kickbacks totaling $66,000 to an elected official not named by the feds.

Former Deputy Clerk Jim Gelios says his former boss, who died last year of a terminal illness, gave boxes of documents to the feds.

Current Township Supervisor Janet Dunn tells 7 Action News she doesn’t know what happened, even though it was on her watch.

The new Township Clerk Kristi Pozzi says an outside company needs to come in and find out what’s going on.
Post Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:44 am 
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El Supremo

Former Macomb County official charged in public corruption case

James Pistilli PHOTO -- LINKEDIN.COM
By Mitch Hotts, The Macomb Daily
POSTED: 09/05/17, 7:25 PM EDT | UPDATED: 7 HRS AGO
A former Macomb County public works chief engineer was named by federal prosecutors Tuesday in connection to a widespread pay-to-play corruption scandal in the county.

James Pistilli was charged with one count of bribery conspiracy for his part in steering cash bribes to a Washington Township official to gain a contract with the township.

It’s the first time someone tied to the administration of former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco has been charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Marrocco is under investigation by the FBI.

Pistilli, 68, of Holly, retired in 2012 after one year as the chief engineer for the Macomb County public works office, according to a spokesman for the current public works commissioner, Candice Miller. He is the 15th defendant charged so far in the case.

He was charged in what’s referred to as an information, a charging document that usually indicates a defendant is cooperating with authorities. No lawyer was listed for Pistilli in the court filing system.

According to federal prosecutors, Pistilli conspired with Paulin Modi, a civil engineer, and at least one other individual to give $2,000 to Steven Hohensee, a former Washington Township public works superintendent to secure a contract from the township for an unnamed company.

The alleged bribery took place in 2014, when Pistilli and Modi were employed with Giffels Webster, an engineering firm. Neither man is still with the firm, according to Giffels Webster partner Matt Schwanitz.

“This was a surprise to us,” Schwanitz said. “We are not the target of the investigation, we were told that by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Schwanitz said the firm is cooperating with federal investigators if needed. Schwanitz said when Pistilli was employed by the engineering firm, he worked on a part-time basis or about 20 hours a week.

“We are a really good firm, with really good employees and really good clients,” Schwanitz said. “I don’t know what’s going on with all of this, but I can say we were told that we are not a target of the investigation.”

Federal authorities previously charged Hohensee, the former Washington Township DPW boss, with accepting $10,000 in bribes from an undercover informant who was working for the FBI. Hohensee later agreed to work for the FBI, according to court documents.

Pistilli previously was assistant chief engineer for Macomb County for about seven years.

According to his Linkedin.com account, he also worked for 10 years as chief engineer for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office.

The case is part of a larger and ongoing corruption investigation focusing on pay-to-play schemes in the county that apparently started with a probe into public officials being bribed to approve municipal contracts with Rizzo Environmental Services, a trash-hauling firm in Sterling Heights, which has since been sold.

It’s the second case for Washington Township.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in an unusual move, this past May identified the township official who acted as a whistle blower in the case. Township Supervisor Dan O’Leary was credited by federal prosecutors with tipping them off to the alleged bribery in his community.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said in May that her office has produced records for federal investigators who apparently were looking at her predecessor’s 24 years in office. Miller defeated Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco in November.

Marrocco hasn’t made any public comments.

The FBI was inquiring about Marrocco and former deputy Dino Bucci -- who also is a Macomb Township trustee -- and had requested invoices and emails relating to the pair, according to Miller.
Post Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:10 pm 
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El Supremo

Feds charge ex-Macomb engineer in corruption case
Robert Snell, The Detroit News Published 3:48 p.m. ET Sept. 5, 2017 | Updated 6:57 p.m. ET Sept. 5, 2017
Detroit — Federal prosecutors charged the former chief engineer of Macomb County for his role in the Macomb County corruption scandal Tuesday, accusing him of funneling bribes to a Washington Township public official.

James Pistilli, 68, of Holly was charged with bribery conspiracy, a 10-year felony, according to a federal court filing Tuesday in federal court. He is the 15th person charged in the widening scandal.

Pistilli was charged in a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is expected.

Pistilli learned that he was charged with a crime Tuesday from The Detroit News and expressed confusion about the allegations.

“I was involved but I really didn’t understand what was going on,” he said. “It was really a sad situation for me. My wife had passed away and I was pretty screwed up at the time.”

Pistilli was chief engineer for Macomb County’s public works office from August 2011 until June 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The conspiracy involving Pistilli dates to spring 2014, the filing alleges. He conspired to give $2,000 to Washington Township public works superintendent Steven Hohensee, according to the court filing.

Pistilli and a second man, engineering contractor Paulin Modi, served as middlemen for an unnamed company that was trying to win a contract with Washington Township, according to court records.

Pistilli and Modi worked for the engineering firm Giffels Webster, a company that has numerous municipal contracts in Metro Detroit. Modi is expected to plead guilty Sept. 12.

During the time listed in the court filing, Pistilli worked as a senior project manager for Giffels Webster.

Neither man currently works for the company, Giffels Webster partner Matt Schwanitz said Tuesday.

“The U.S. Attorney has said our firm is not a subject or a target in this investigation,” Schwanitz said. “I need to see what’s going on.”

On Oct. 20, 2014, an employee from the unnamed company met Hohensee and paid a $2,000 bribe, prosecutors allege.

Hohensee, however, was working undercover for the FBI, according to the filing.

The charge is the latest in a wide-ranging, ongoing investigation into public officials pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Sterling Heights trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services and a towing company.

The court filing is the first time federal prosecutors have charged someone who previously worked for former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco.

The filing comes four months after Marrocco’s successor, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, said a federal grand jury was investigating that office and had subpoenaed testimony from about a dozen public employees.

FBI agents are asking questions about Marrocco, his former deputy, Dino Bucci, and millions of dollars in payments to an unnamed county contractor, Miller said.


(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews
Post Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:02 pm 
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El Supremo

Contractor admits paying Macomb official kickbacks, but says he 'lost money' in return
Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press Published 5:14 p.m. ET Oct. 3, 2017 | Updated 7:45 p.m. ET Oct. 3, 2017

The federal government dropped a legal bomb on three millionaire businessmen today, indicting ex-trash company CEO Charles "Chuck” Rizzo, his father and towing company magnate Gasper Fiore on a slew of bribery and fraud charges. Ann Zaniewski/Detroit Free Press

In the world of public corruption, paying kickbacks typically means getting something in return.

For contractor Christopher Sorrentino, who admitted today to funneling $66,000 in kickbacks to a Macomb Township official, it didn't exactly work that way — or so he claims.

In a plea agreement signed today, Sorrentino said he "made no money" on a parking lot paving deal that landed him in federal court, but rather "lost money" delivering kickbacks to an elected official who promised him work.

According to multiple sources familiar with the probe, the official who received the kickbacks is Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci, who also is a former employee of the Macomb County Public Works department.

Bucci has not been criminally charged in the case, but is facing a civil lawsuit in federal court in which he is accused of extorting a different contractor.

FBI is said to have a load of dirt on Macomb official Dino Bucci

Ex-FBI chief: Chuck Rizzo doomed for turning on the feds

Sorrentino, meanwhile, pleaded guilty today to financial structuring — a crime that involves tricking the bank into how much money someone is depositing to avoid reporting requirements. The trickery was meant to hide the kickbacks he was funneling to the official. Sorrentino faces 10-16 months in prison under the terms of his plea deal.

Here's how the scheme worked, according to Sorrentino's plea agreement:

In 2014, Sorrentino received $254,500 from Macomb Township for work that he never did: He was supposed to pave a parking lot for the township fire station, but someone else did the job. After the job was complete, an unnamed township official told Sorrentino to send a check for $181,000 to the contractor who did the work and to give him the rest: about $73,000.

Sorrentino ended up keeping $7,000 to cover the taxes on the money he was paid, and gave $66,000 to the official. He paid the kickback by writing a series of seven checks, each for slightly less than $10,000 to avoid a federal reporting requirement.

Sorrentino then cashed all of the checks at his bank and gave the cash to the official as a kickback, he admitted.

In 2015, this same scenario happened again. Sorrentino received money from Macomb Township for a paving job that someone else did. He paid that company that did the work, gave $30,000 to the elected official and kept a portion of the money to cover his taxes.

"In the end, the defendant made no money on the two jobs for Macomb Township, but instead lost money because of the taxes that he had to pay on the two jobs 'awarded' by the elected official of Macomb township," states Sorrentino's guilty plea agreement.

Sorrentino's lawyer, Art Weiss, defended his client's reputation, saying he got duped by a public official who misrepresented what was really going on.

"He was an honest contractor who thought that he was getting a legitimate contract," Weiss said. "He got the rug pulled out from under him."

Weiss said Sorrentino is as "honest as the day is long" and noted that this is his first brush with the law.

Bucci could not be reached for comment and neither could his attorney, Domnick Sorise.

Today's plea is part of the government's wide-ranging corruption investigation that triggered the demise of trash giant Rizzo Environmental Services last fall and landed its founders in federal court, along with millionaire towing titan Gasper Fiore and 13 others.

Among the allegations is that the Rizzos and Fiore stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Rizzo garbage company while it was majority-owned by others and used some of the money to build Rizzo Jr.'s Bloomfield Township mansion. Chuck Rizzo Jr. and Fiore also are accused of paying bribes in order to secure contracts in various municipalities.

Chuck Rizzo Jr., Chuck Rizzo Sr. and Fiore have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond.

Since the FBI disclosed the probe last fall, 10 defendants have cut deals. The defendants include an ex-lawyer, an engineering contractor, a former executive with Rizzo Environmental Services and six public officials.

According to Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, the FBI’s corruption probe has zeroed in on her office, with about 10 employees being specifically questioned this past year about Bucci and his one-time powerful boss Anthony Marrocco, the longtime public works commissioner before Miller.

Contact Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @Tbaldas.
Post Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:20 pm 
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El Supremo

FBI witness dies amid Macomb corruption probe
Robert Snell, The Detroit News Published 11:04 a.m. ET Oct. 6, 2017 | Updated 2:37 p.m. ET Oct. 6, 2017

Detroit – A cooperating FBI witness in the Macomb County corruption scandal, who helped secure charges against others in the case, died Wednesday, two days after being released on bond.

Former Washington Township public works superintendent Steven Hohensee died of apparent natural causes, Shelby Township Deputy Police Chief Mark Coil said. The impact on the widespread corruption case, which has led to 16 people being charged with crimes, was unclear Friday.

Hohensee, 61, of Shelby Township died two days after a federal magistrate released him on $10,000 unsecured bond. The married father of four was charged in July with accepting $10,000 in bribes from a confidential FBI source – a 10-year felony – and was expected to plead guilty.

Township police did not know Hohensee factored into the FBI investigation until Friday. After learning about his role in the scandal from The Detroit News, police decided to take another look at Hohensee’s death.

“This man wasn’t on our radar, we didn’t know who this man was or what part he played in this (FBI) investigation,” Coil said. “Our investigators and the (Macomb County) medical examiner will take another look to rule out foul play.”

An autopsy will be conducted Friday, Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz said.

"There are questions about why he died," Spitz said. "We're looking into it."

Autopsy results likely won't be available until after his office completes additional tests, Spitz added.

Hohensee had suffered from “significant” health issues lately, his defense lawyer Martin Crandall said Friday.

“He was a gentleman, a wonderful father, wonderful husband and a real asset to our community,” Crandall said. “He was a very giving person and a veteran of the United States Navy.”

The bribery charge will be dismissed, Crandall said.

Hohensee’s death is the latest development in a wide-ranging scandal involving public officials pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Sterling Heights trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services and a towing company.

Hohensee’s role in the investigation became more clear this fall as others charged in the scandal reached plea deals with the government.

Former Macomb County Public Works Department chief engineer James Pistilli and engineer Paulin Modi conspired to pay Hohensee a $2,000 bribe in 2014, prosecutors allege.

Hohensee, however, was cooperating with the FBI at the time.

Pistilli, 68, of Holly, and Modi, 48, of Troy, have since reached plea deals and are awaiting sentencing in federal court.

A third man, paving contractor Christopher Sorrentino, struck a plea deal Wednesday – the same day Hohensee died – and admitted delivering $66,000 in kickbacks to a Macomb Township official. That official is township Trustee Dino Bucci, The Detroit News has learned.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews

(313) 222-2486
Post Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:24 pm 
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