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FBI investigators on Wednesday reportedly raided both Detroit City Hall and the homes of two Detroit City Council members — as well as the home of one of the members’ chief of staff — as part of an investigation into corruption.
“At this point, why are we doing this? Why are we doing these search warrants? Because the citizens of Detroit have a right to a city government that is free of corruption,” the FBI special agent in charge of the operation, Tim Waters, said while speaking to reporters outside City Hall.
“I want to make it clear that no one is being charged today. Simply, what we’re doing today is collecting evidence, which will be presented to the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Eastern District of Michigan, who will make all decisions on charging in this ongoing investigation,” he added.
FBI Detroit Special Agent Tim Waters said the multiple raids conducted this morning were because “The citizens of Detroit have a right to a city government that’s free of corruption,” he said. @detroitnews pic.twitter.com/5BgQtVDt70
— Sarah Rahal (@SarahRahal_) August 25, 2021
While neither council member Janee Ayers nor council member Scott Benson — nor Benson’s chief of staff — were charged, eventual charges seem likely given recent events in Detroit.
Late last month, federal prosecutors charged another council member, Andre Spivey, and his staffer for allegedly accepting $35,000 in bribery payments from 2016 to 2020.
“Both Andre Spivey and Public Official A accepted the bribe payments with the intent to be influenced and rewarded in connection with upcoming votes on the Detroit City Council and in subcommittees of the Detroit City Council concerning an industry under review by the council,” according to court records cited by the Detroit Free Press.
BREAKING: Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey part of $35K bribery conspiracy, prosecutors say https://t.co/64R9kwMsEW
— Detroit Free Press (@freep) July 28, 2021
Notice the use of the word “conspiracy” in the tweet above.
All was quiet following Spivey’s indictment up until this Wednesday, when FBI agents performed what the Free Press described as a “dramatic show of force” both at Detroit City Hall and the homes of Ayers, Benson, and chief of staff Carol Banks.
Not much is known about the FBI’s current investigation, though there is information about Ayers’ past.
“Ayers’ name surfaced in a 2017 FBI wiretap affidavit, which was obtained by the Free Press and included details of an investigation involving towing mogul Gasper Fiore,” according to the Free Press.
“According to the affidavit, Fiore had a conversation about supporting Ayers and he was presented with an opportunity to pay for billboards for the councilwoman. Fiore was sentenced in 2018 to 21 months for paying $7,000 in cash bribes to a Macomb County official for help with a towing contract,” the outlet reported.
Photos of both Ayers and Benson can be seen below:
— Dave Boucher (@Dave_Boucher1) August 25, 2021
Meanwhile, some worry about the effect the raid will have on Ayers and Benson’s bids for reelection come November.
“One of the things that I’m a little surprised about is why this would be happening in the middle of an election cycle?” former Detroit City Council member Sheila Cockrel said to the Free Press.
“My sense in the past was there was concern that any investigation of public actions would have impacts on outcomes of elections. What happens if this all turns out not to be about anything?” she added.
The problem is that it rarely “turns out not to be about anything” in Detroit, the veritable home of corruption.
In 2010, then-just-resigned council member Monica Conyers was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to accepting a bribe.
— Live Monitor (@amlivemon) December 6, 2017
Three years later, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison for mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering.
However, Kilpatrick wound up making it out of prison decades early thanks to a pardon from former President Donald Trump:
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick meets with family after his 28 year sentence was commuted by Trump: pic.twitter.com/rvElCgMZO4
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 21, 2021
And then, two months ago, former council member Gabe Leland was sentenced to 2.5 years of probation for misconduct in office.
“The former council member committed misconduct by accepting $7,500 campaign contributions in cash,” the Free Press reported at the time.
“He was accused of seeking $15,000 from Detroit businessman Bob Carmack in exchange for blocking the city from selling land that Carmack claimed he owned. Carmack previously said he paid the councilman $7,500 to prevent the city from selling his property,” the outlet added.
The examples go on for days.
Yet former Michigan State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, currently a school board member in Detroit, doesn’t think these criminals are reflective of everybody who serves in Detroit, according to remarks she made in a recent interview with local station WXYZ.
While they may not be reflective of every politician in Detroit, they do appear to be reflective of most …
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