Detroit — A former high-ranking Wayne County official ensnared in a corruption scandal should receive a “significant” prison sentence today, federal prosecutors said.
Sentencing former Chief Information Officer Tahir Kazmi to probation for pocketing approximately $70,000 in bribes from a county contractor would be a “stunning injustice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey wrote in a court filing.
Kazmi, 50, formerly of Rochester Hills, was the first person charged in 2012 in connection with an ongoing, wide-ranging corruption probe of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s administration. A search warrant affidavit obtained by The News indicates the FBI is investigating ex-Detroit Metropolitan Airport CEO Turkia Mullin and former Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder for corruption.
The investigation has led to several guilty pleas and prison sentences for two people so far.
“A sentence of imprisonment would demonstrate that no one is above the law, no matter their position as a government official,” Gardey wrote. “In fact, public servants should be held to a higher standard given their positions of trust, power, and responsibility.”
Kazmi pleaded guilty in July 2012 and agreed to cooperate with the government. He faces up to 10 years in prison but if he provides substantial cooperation, federal prosecutors will ask U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy for a sentence below a range of 57-71 months.
Gardey did not request a specific sentence in the court filing.
“The punishment of the court should send a clear message to other public officials that such conduct cannot and will not be tolerated,” he wrote. “This case is another important instance of the need to deter public officials in southeastern Michigan from breaking the law and taking advantage of their public offices in order to personally enrich themselves.”
Kazmi’s lawyer could not be reached for comment immediately Thursday.
The government’s sentencing memo indicates Kazmi is arguing that a prison sentence “would amount to excessive and unjust punishment.”
In pleading guilty, Kazmi said he pocketed cash, free trips and other gifts from contractor Philip Shisha, managing partner of an information technology company called Strategic Business Partners. In return, Kazmi gave the contractor preferential treatment on county jobs.
Shisha’s Detroit company has received more than $26 million in county contracts over the last 10 years. He is one of the largest donors to Ficano’s political action committee. Shisha gave it $20,000 in 2011, records show.
According to court records, Kazmi accepted cash, trips to Florida, Hawaii and Turkey between May 2009 and 2011.
Shisha testified last year that he paid Kazmi thousands on a regular basis because he was afraid that Kazmi would withhold payments or cancel multimillion-dollar county contracts.
Shisha also testified that Kazmi was abusive and often belittled him. He made the payments of $8,000 or more monthly, at times, often leaving the cash in an envelope on a drawer in the library of Kazmi’s house.
Kazmi was the first person charged with a crime in the Wayne County corruption probe.