August 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm

FBI investigates Elder, Mullin

Former Wayne Co. officials targeted in corruption probe

Elder )

Detroit — The FBI is investigating former Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder for corruption, along with ex-Detroit Metropolitan Airport CEO Turkia Mullin, according to a search warrant obtained Tuesday by The Detroit News that for the first time reveals a focus of a wide-ranging federal probe.

A search warrant affidavit unsealed Tuesday sought permission to search the Rochester Hills home of former Wayne County official Tahir Kazmi on Feb. 9. Kazmi, the county's former chief information officer, pleaded guilty last month to accepting $70,000 in bribes from a contractor and is cooperating with the FBI probe.

"Wow," said Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker, D-Detroit. "Most people have always thought it was those two or (Wayne County Executive Robert) Ficano or all three, so I'm not surprised. But it's the first time someone confirmed it. Everyone has just been waiting for it to happen."

In the affidavit, FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman wrote that agents "were looking into allegations of corruption within the county, including allegations of corruption and/or malfeasance by Elder. Also under investigation was Turkia Mullin."

Elder and Mullin have not been charged amid the ongoing investigation.

Elder's civil lawyer, Thomas Warnicke, declined comment Tuesday.

Mullin's attorney, Ray Sterling, said the search warrant affidavit was notable for what it didn't include.

"It is no secret that numerous Wayne County officials have been investigated, and we have assumed all along that this included Turkia Mullin," Sterling said. "The facts in this affidavit have been well known for months, and it is noteworthy that nothing in it accuses Turkia Mullin of doing anything improper."

FBI spokesman Simon Shaykhet declined comment.

The roughly yearlong probe of Wayne County government has yielded guilty pleas from two former county officials and one contractor.

Late Tuesday, Ficano spokeswoman June West said: "We've cooperated with the federal investigation from the beginning and will continue to do so."

The warrant also alleges that a coworker of Kazmi, identified as Confidential Informant 2, accused Kazmi of pressuring him to alter hard drives from computers used by Elder and Mullin. Both are named in grand jury subpoenas, but neither is charged.

The FBI has been investigating Wayne County since last fall and issued wide-ranging subpoenas in October following news that Mullin got a $200,000 severance after leaving Wayne County to serve as director of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

FBI agents, who searched Kazmi's $605,000 home in Rochester Hills, were looking for county contracts, vendor lists, personnel and financial records and any communication with Elder and Mullin, according to a copy of the warrant.

Agents also were looking for records relating to "bribery, kickbacks and extortion involving Wayne County government."

Agents left with $22,638 in cash, computer equipment, bank and travel documents and jewelry, including 31 bracelets, watches, 23 necklaces, earrings and rings, according to the search warrant inventory.

A week after the search, Kazmi was charged with extortion, theft and obstruction of justice.

He was accused of shaking down a contractor for more than $80,000 in cash. Kazmi faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced Oct. 26.

If he provides substantial help to investigators, prosecutors will ask for a sentence of less than 57-71 months.

rsnell@detnews.com

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