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Topic: How the "Hottest Race" led to Flint's Crisis
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Jim Kiertzner, then a reporter for WNEM, was a thorn in the side of Burton politicians.
Alerted to a possible meeting of some Burton councilmen with Rizzo after a controversial vote in favor of a Rizzo development at a council meeting. Kiertzner staked out Puzzler's Pub. Bob Leonard was driving a van for Kiertzner while two females entered the bar, one wearing a concealed camera. Unfortunately WNEM only had one camera and it had arrived in Flint late without being recharged.

The Flint woman carrying the camera laughed about how it was set up so that she had to point her left breast at those she was filming. When the camera failed, she went into the bar's restroom in an attempt to readjust it. That led to an awkward moment when an older woman entered the ladies room to find the female in a partially undressed state with the electronic devices attached.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:27 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The ever impatient Kiertzner then made the decision to rush the bar with his camera. Councilmen and Rizzo scattered as Kiertzner entered with camera rolling and lights on them. The owner of Puzzler's Pub rushed in to order kiertzner out and the police were called. Kiertzner and company had to move their vehicle to a nearby gas station on order of the police. That simply gave them another vantage point from which to film.

But Kiertzner had the last laugh at the Burton Councilman Ted Hammon's expense, Policy about driving Burton vehicles while drinking were in effect. Kiertzner filmed Hammon leaving the bar and attempting to hide behind vehicles in an effort to reach his city car. Hammon abandons that effort and a Burton officer, who also was drinking in the bar, retrieves the car for Hammon. Both Leonard, who had a Comcat 17 how at the time, and kiertzner got a lot of mileage out of that tape, The camera carrying female used the name of the only business person he knew in Burton when questioned by those at the table with Rizzo. That man laughed later when he joked about her being the daughter he had always wanted.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:43 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Federal agents probing Burton: Leyton still seeks Rizzo leak source

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on February 02, 2005 at 4:10 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 3:01 PM

BURTON, Michigan -- Most of a public corruption investigation into Mayor Charles Smiley and other officials has been turned over to federal investigators, who are saying little about their plans.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said Tuesday that the bulk of the case, which has focused on Smiley, county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, Burton City Councilman Robert Centilli and City Administrator Charles Abbey, is now out of his hands.

Leyton said he will investigate who leaked a statement by developer Blake Rizzo in which Rizzo claims he gave money to Smiley and Centilli, laundered money through a company owned by Wright, and arranged for a subdivision lot to be given to Abbey in return for favorable treatment on his housing projects.

Rizzo was facing four felonies that could have landed him in prison for 28 years before he gave the statement as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

"The matter has been referred to federal authorities for investigation, " said Leyton, who would not elaborate on what he found during the past several weeks as he has reviewed records left behind by former Prosecutor Arthur A. Busch. "I don't want to cast any aspersions."

Smiley, Abbey, Centilli and Wright have denied the allegations.

"They are head-hunting, " Centilli said of the original investigation. "If they've got something on us, bring it on."

Smiley said The Flint Journal has "done enough" in reporting on Rizzo's statement to prosecutors, questioning whether the developer ever even characterized as bribery the money he alleges to have given Smiley.

Smiley said he is looking forward to putting "this silliness behind us."

Abbey has said public records that indicate he did not pay for a lot in a Rizzo subdivision are not what they appear to be and that he can show he paid for the property he built his home on.

A Journal article in January showed that county property records indicated that the lot owned by Abbey had been sold to him by a former Rizzo employee.

The same paperwork indicated that the transaction was not subject to a property transfer tax because the lot - currently valued at $36,500 -was worth less than $100 in an undeveloped condition.

Wright said the referral to federal officials could be "the best, considering all the irregularities to date." Wright has been critical of Busch's investigation and asked the county Board of Commissioners to give Leyton any resources he needed to investigate Rizzo's allegations, file charges or clear those named.

"I'm puzzled why the new prosecutor couldn't find anything to justify the old prosecutor's plea deal, " Wright said. "If there was enough there for a plea deal, there should be enough to press charges."

Federal officials have said very little about their involvement in the Burton case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Haviland would neither confirm nor deny that his Flint office had agreed to investigate Rizzo's allegations of widespread payoffs.

"We just don't comment on the progress of any individual complaint, " he said. "Now I can tell you that if at any time we received allegations of public corruption, we have to make a decision as to whether it's something that we and the FBI, I think, should be investigating as a federal matter.

"Sometimes it may take a considerable amount of time to figure that out."

Robert Hughes, supervisor of the Flint office of the FBI, said Tuesday that "the matter is being looked at."

The supervisor has said a public corruption task force remains in place in Flint but did not say whether it would be involved in the Burton case.

That task force also investigated possible improprieties in the sale of property seized by the county in a drug forfeiture last year.

There were no charges filed in that case.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:50 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

I remember when Leonard and Kiertzner went to pick up the "leaked" document. Later, I poured over my copy of the transcript, upset that there were 7 missing pages. After the other media outlets made requests for the documents, the bombshell 7 pages surfaced.

Some allegations never made the mainstream media. It was odd that Rizzo arranged to have corvette, leased by his father, taken to Swartz Creek to later be sold. Unfortunately for the young man in possession of the car, he got nervous when no one showed up to move it off his premise. He then began to chop the car up and was arrested by the county auto theft group GAIN.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:00 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

When some GAIN officers were drinking in a bar, they expressed their anger at County Sheriff Robert Pickell, who they said was impeding their investigation. After arresting the "chop shop" kid, they had confronted the individual who had driven the car for Rizzo to Swartz Creek. That individual denied doing any thing illegal as he had only driven the car at the request of Rizzo. He did however, admit to torching a barn for Rizzo off Maple Road at the entrance of Rizzo's new development.

Some Burton residents stated they believed La Duke and other Burton officials tored equipment in the barn. It was alleged that equipment was moved prior to the fire.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:10 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

When some GAIN officers were drinking in a bar, they expressed their anger at County Sheriff Robert Pickell, who they said was impeding their investigation. After arresting the "chop shop" kid, they had confronted the individual who had driven the car for Rizzo to Swartz Creek. That individual denied doing any thing illegal as he had only driven the car at the request of Rizzo. He did however, admit to torching a barn for Rizzo off Maple Road at the entrance of Rizzo's new development.

Some Burton residents stated they believed La Duke and other Burton officials stored equipment in the barn. It was alleged that equipment was moved prior to the fire.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:10 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

After Prosecutor Arthur Busch was told of this possible development, he further investigated. Outraged. Busch had threatened to bring charges against both Sheriff Pickell and then County Commissioner Ted Hammon. It was said that Hammon was meeting with Pickell in an attempt to slow or stop the investigation into Rizzo. I don't know why Busch never followed through on his threats but he expressed regret at a later time for not having done so. Busch had already stepped on the fed's toes with the Danny Parks deal, and the fed's allegedly wanted the Burton documents. They brought charge against Busch in the sale of some property forfeited in drug but. It turned out Busch had assigned the sale to an assistant and it was done properly by statute. Unfortunately,the investigation may have been triggered by a local Flint investor, known to Busch, that purchased the property. Charges were dismissed.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:22 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Probation for Rizzo: What next?

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on June 23, 2005 at 4:33 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 2:56 PM

BURTON, Michigan -- Now that a prominent Burton developer has been sentenced to probation, what does it mean for city politics and a public corruption probe?

Observers are speculating after Blake Rizzo's sentence Wednesday to a year's probation and no jail time for pleading to misdemeanor insurance fraud and bribery charges.

"They better be doggone nervous and shaking in their boots, " said resident Donna Smithling, referring to Mayor Charles Smiley and other officials who may be a target of a federal bribery investigation that has Rizzo at its center.

Smiley said he never accepted bribes from Rizzo.

"I want to thank people in the city and the county for not believing what they're hearing about this case, " Smiley said. "People can see through the silliness. There's nothing there."

But others are pointing to a letter sent by federal prosecutors to Central District Judge Mark McCabe - who sentenced Rizzo - that apparently includes information on the progress made on the case, according to Rizzo's attorney.

Rizzo had faced felony charges but pleaded to misdemeanors in exchange for cooperating with federal authorities. Details of his accusations were revealed in a 170-page court transcript in December.

Rizzo claimed he gave money and gifts to Smiley, City Administrator Charles Abbey and Councilman Bob Centilli in exchange for favorable treatment on his residential developments.

He also accused Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright of money laundering. All the officials have denied wrongdoing, and none has been charged.

"I'm very sorry for my actions. I am ready to take full responsibility for my actions, " Rizzo told McCabe at the sentencing. The developer declined further comment.

Michael Manley, Rizzo's attorney, said he read a letter sent by the U.S. attorney's office to McCabe indicating that federal prosecutors were satisfied with Rizzo's cooperation.

Federal prosecutors have been unwilling to answer questions about the case or even acknowledge that there is an investigation.

"The letter gave more details about the status of the investigation and what the likely results of the investigation would be, " Manley said.

Manley said it was private correspondence, and federal prosecutors told him it would not be released to the media.

"I'm not at liberty to go into more details about the letter, " Manley said.

Wright said he's not angry that the sentence could generate speculation against him and the other public officials. But he said the sentence should have been delayed.

"I have always thought that the investigation should be completed before the sentencing takes place, " Wright said.

Wright also pointed out that Rizzo admitted he committed perjury in the insurance fraud case, casting doubt on the developer's credibility.

"It's already been shown that he'll tell the truth once and then tell a lie once, " Wright said.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton declined to comment about the case.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:53 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

FBI seizes Wright's campaign ledger from county

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on September 28, 2005 at 4:01 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 2:53 PM

GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan -- An FBI agent removed county Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright's campaign finance documents from the countyclerk's office Monday as part of a federal public corruption investigation, a county official confirmed.

Rob Coffman, county elections supervisor, said records dating back to the 2000 election, when Wright first ran for office, were removed for a grand jury investigation. The agent had a federal subpoena to remove the records, he said.

"An agent came in and spent an hour going through documents in the morning. In the afternoon, he came back and took the entire file, " Coffman said.

Coffman said he made copies of the records so that the clerk's office would still have them available.

Wright has been accused of money laundering by developer Blake Rizzo. Rizzo also accused Burton Mayor Charles Smiley, City Administrator Charles Abbey and Councilman Bob Centilli of bribery. All officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Coffman said there was no indication by the FBI agent whether Wright was a target in the investigation.

"They didn't interview us or ask any questions, " Coffman said.

Wright said he was unaware that the FBI retrieved the records, and no records have been removed from his office.

"It's news to me, " Wright said. "They're doing their due diligence."

Wright declined to comment further.

Rizzo pleaded to reduced insurance fraud and bribery charges earlier this year in exchange for cooperating in the public corruption investigation.

Former Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur Busch and other law enforcement officials interviewed Rizzo, and a transcript of that interview was made public in December.

Federal authorities have remained mum on the status of the investigation.

This summer, agents removed records relating to Rizzo's residential developments in Burton from Burton city offices.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:00 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

My complaint to the State Elections Department was the only written complaint made.

After being challenged, Hightower and Douglas apparently manufactured documents. It was startling to watch Kiertzner chase down the Oakland County residents who allegedly donated to Wright. The looks on their faces as they told Kiertzner they never heard of Wright, never spent that kind of money on campaign donations and would never campaign for a Genesee County Drain Commisioner.

Geneee County needs another Kiertzner!
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:09 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said he agreed to be confidential FBI source in Detroit corruption probe
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Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com By Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com
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on May 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM, updated May 13, 2010 at 3:44 PM

SJ+JEFF+WRIGHT1.jpgJeff Wright
GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan — Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said today he agreed to assist the FBI in its public corruption investigation of Detroit officials, including a political consultant with Flint ties.

In federal court filings on Wednesday, it was revealed that Wright allegedly made a secretly recorded phone call to Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle, who had worked in the Flint area for many years, according to an attorney.

Wright issued a short statement today confirming that he had been contacted by the FBI and he agreed to help them.

When asked in an interview why the FBI contacted Wright, he replied, "I know a lot of people." Wright declined to comment on how he knows Riddle, but said he's known him "a long time."

(UPDATE: Wright had past FBI encounter. See Top 7 stories on the scandal. )

Wright said he can't comment further on the case because the federal investigation is ongoing.

"I do not and will not tolerate any form of public corruption," Wright said.

Court filings indicated Wright was a confidential FBI source known as "Source-3" in the federal bribery probe in which Riddle and his ex-girlfriend, former state representative Mary Waters, are co-defendants.

The court documents were filed by Waters' attorney, Richard Convertino, who claimed irregularities in how the government got the wiretaps that eventually led to Waters’ indictment in the bribery case.

Convertino's filing indicated the FBI asked Wright to call Riddle in June 2007 and question Riddle about Glen Blanton, former director of the Detroit Cobo Center.

Riddle and Waters' trial begins June 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:13 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

During the 1998 election Wright supporters harassed JoJo Hardin. Some thought she had lost it following the death of her father and did not know what to think of her statements that she was being followed. It was apparent something was going on when when even our trash was being searched, much like the Hardins. After seeing the same white truck twice in JoJo's vicinity, I got a close look at the driver. I recognized the driver as a Genesee County deputy. I immediately contacted Sheriff Joe Wilson and the harassment stopped.

The Drain Commission was a hotbed of politics. Nasty drawings were posted and continued when the union fell out with Wright.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:22 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Monday, September 12, 2016
Special Prosecutor Needed ASAP: David Leyton-Top Attorney Investigating Flint Water Crisis With Schuette-Has Extensive Ties To Jeff Wright
Leyton, center, with Schuette
By Brandon Hall
(Email WestMIPolitics@Gmail.com)

Disturbing news is emerging regarding the Flint Water Crisis: Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton has a clear and present conflict of interest in the case and must step down or be forceably removed immediately.

Leyton is one of the top attorneys on the case, working side-by-side with Attorney General Schuette as one of the chief prosecutors in the Flint water investigation. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade is also spearheading the effort....

Unfortunately, Leyton is extensively tied to Jeff Wright, "the man who poisoned Flint," the corrupt Genesee County Drain Commissioner who doubles as the CEO of the Karegnondi Water Authority, the controversial plan that led to the crisis.
>>>Meet Jeff Wright, The Man Who Poisoned Flint
>>>Sam Riddle "Amazed" Jeff Wright Hasn't Been "Catching More Hell" For Poisoning Flint
A WMP investigation reveals Wright-a former FBI public corruption target turned rat, banked nearly $200,000 from the contractors who made millions off the Flint Water crisis. Some of the contractors had extensive ties to ex Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick...
Leyton has already recused himself from a past investigation of Wright tied to Blake Rizzo in 2005. Leyton HIMSELF says he knows Wright too well and can't properly investigate him.

According to reports:

"Named as taking bribes from Rizzo were Burton Mayor Charles Smiley, City Administrator Charles Abbey, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright and Burton Councilman Bob Centilli.

Smiley, Wright and Centilli deny the claims; Abbey could not be reached for comment.
The Flint Journal could not reach Rizzo or his attorney, Michael Manley, for comment Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, David Leyton, who will take over Busch's job in 2005, said he likely would turn any investigation of the case over to the state attorney general's office.

"We're just not equipped to handle it, " Leyton said. "It would take thousands of man-hours, and with budget cuts, we just don't have that kind of staff."

Leyton said he also personally knows some of the people mentioned in the transcripts, such as political consultant Ken McArdle, Smiley and Wright, so it could be a conflict of interest for him to take on the case. McArdle worked on Leyton's 2004 campaign.

Rizzo accused Smiley and Wright of having Rizzo pay for McArdle's services for their campaigns - $5,000 each for Smiley's campaigns in 1999 and 1995 and $5,000 or $10,000 for Wright's campaign in 2000."

>>>Wright hosted Leyton at a golf party in 2009. Leyton posted about it on Facebook.



>>>And Leyton and Wright teamed up as recently as 3 weeks ago to co-host a fundraiser together...



>>>In addition to Leyton's own admission that he's too close to Wright, his past precedent from other cases indicates he should remove himself from the case.

According to MLive:

"Prosecutor David Leyton has recused himself from a case involving two former Genesee Intermediate School District administrators using public funds to facilitate an affair.

Leyton, who asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the matter involving former superintendent Thomas Svitkovich and assistant superintendent Beverly Knox-Pipes, said he recused himself because Svitkovich had previously donated to his political campaigns.

"I recused myself to avoid the appearance of any improprieties," said Leyton.

Leyton said he learned Svitkovich had donated made campaign donations to him after he asked one of his campaign members to look to see if either Svitkovich or Knox-Pipes had made any donations.
Leyton said he was not sure how much Svitkovich had donated. Leyton said he sent a letter to the Michigan Attorney General asking him to recuse himself a few weeks ago."

Wright has made at least one donation to Leyton and possibly other contributions as well...

Flint Water activist Leroy Jackson blasted Leyton on Facebook. Jackson is amazed Wright, along with ex-FLint Mayor Dwayne Walling, have avoided punishment .

"The residents of Flint, MI. do not trust Genesee County," Jackson said. "If (Leyton) arrests Ex Mayor Walling and Genesee County Drain Comm. Jeff Wright, then he means business. If not, he's on some Bulls***!"


Mr. Leyton should have NEVER allowed himself to investigate this case in the first place. Even worse, as the investigation continued, he still did not recuse himself!

Now, immense damage has been done to the credibility of the investigation. No evidence exists Leyton is corrupt in this case, but he himself admits he can't investigate Jeff Wright. Wright also donated to him, just like past cases where Leyton dismissed himself from the case...

The Genesee County portion of the investigation should immediately be turned over to a special prosecutor, or U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

If Leyton won't go on his own accord, Attorney General Schuette should intervene immediately. If Mr. Schuette refuses to act, Mrs. McQuade should step in.

WMP called for a full Flint investigation in October of 2015 and cares deeply about the situation there. It's complicated, unlike the media narrative being portrayed... It's also worth remembering that while WMP called for a full investigation, Schuette initially refused to do, declining in December but later changing course...

Flint Lives Matter, as all lives matter. The problem is that again and again actions speak louder than words, and the people of Flint are immensely frustrated, screwed over repeatedly by politicians in both parties at every level of government. Enough is ENOUGH!
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:32 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Federal indictment: Burton aide charged with bribery

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on May 25, 2006 at 4:37 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 2:51 PM

BURTON, Michigan -- A top city official was indicted on bribery, conspiracy and extortion charges Wednesday, the first criminal case to surface in the long-running saga over alleged public corruption in Burton.

Burton Public Works Director Charles Abbey is accused of using his former position as city administrator to extort a subdivision lot from developer Blake Rizzo.

A federal grand jury indicted Abbey, a close ally of Mayor Charles Smiley, on one count each of bribery, conspiracy and extortion, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Flint. He could face prison and a large fine if found guilty.

Abbey, reached Wednesday afternoon, said he was unaware of the indictment.

"I guess I'm shocked, " he said. "I've maintained from the start that I don't understand this, and I believe I'm innocent."

Abbey said he has documentation he paid $24,000 for the lot, but he declined to give further details without talking to his attorney.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Haviland said arrangements had been made with Abbey's lawyer for Abbey to turn himself in for arraignment.

Burton City Councilman Jamie Curtis said Abbey should resign.

"Abbey denied, denied, denied, and today we have an indictment, " Curtis said. "Obviously, Abbey lied to us."

Abbey is the only public official to be indicted in the fallout over an infamous transcript of a 2003 interview of Rizzo by Genesee County prosecutors. That transcript was leaked to the media in late 2004.

Besides naming Abbey, Rizzo accused Smiley and former Councilman Bob Centilli of bribery and Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright of money laundering.

None of the others has been charged, and all have denied the accusations.

The allegations surfaced when Rizzo reached a plea deal over two felony counts of insurance fraud. The felonies were reduced to misdemeanors, and he served no jail time.

According to the transcript, Rizzo said Abbey told him he wanted to live in Rizzo's new Maplewood Meadows subdivision, but he couldn't afford the full lot price.

"And then I gave (Abbey) the lot. I said, 'Go ahead, you don't owe me nothing, take it, " Rizzo told investigators according to the transcript.

Genesee County property records indicate Abbey received a lot now valued at more than $36,000 in Maplewood Meadows for free or next to nothing.

The Journal could not reach Smiley for comment Wednesday. But Centilli said Wednesday he stands by Abbey, saying he trusts the official's word.

"I still believe he paid for it, " said Centilli, who lost a re-election bid in 2005 after the accusations surfaced.

Resident Carl Fenner, who closely watches Burton politics, said he's not surprised by the indictment because "it's been in the wind."

"There's some shaky stuff going on there, " Fenner said.

The indictment charges Abbey with conspiracy to bribe a public official, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison; soliciting of a bribe by a public official, a 10-year felony; and extortion by a public official, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Abbey also could face fines of $750,000 if convicted.

In the indictment, the grand jury charged that Abbey "corruptly solicited, demanded, and accepted .... a deed to 4260 Meadows" between May and October 2001.

The indictment charges Rizzo gave the lot to Abbey through Amanda Wilcox Spangler, the developer's administrative assistant, "to reward and influence ... Abbey in connection with past and future business transactions of the City of Burton."

The indictment alleges that Rizzo in the transaction signed over a quit-claim deed for the lot to Spangler around June 4, 2001, and Rizzo had her transfer the property to Abbey and his wife, Ann, that October.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:53 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

From the court - United States Court of Appeals
www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/09a0133p-06.pdf

Apr 3, 2009 ... Administrator Charles Abbey was convicted of conspiracy to bribe a public official . 1 ... government did not prove such a link at trial and that the jury ... Rizzo stated that he had given numerous bribes to various Burton ... conviction, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, (B) the jury instructions for his conviction of bribery.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:56 am 
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