July 1, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Ex-Ficano aide sentenced to 7 1/2 years in corruption case

Grundy )

Detroit — Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s former political lieutenant, labeled by prosecutors a remorseless thief who raided $700,000 from a health insurance program for the poor and blew the cash on a Louis Vuitton shopping spree, airplane tickets and $10,000 worth of “hair plugs” before his wedding, was sentenced to 7˝ years in prison Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Detroit resident Michael Grundy was involved in a public corruption scheme and crippled the county’s ability to provide health care services for poor people.

Grundy, 42, is the highest ranking public official caught in an ongoing FBI investigation of Ficano’s administration. It is unclear whether more current or former Wayne County officials will be prosecuted but the FBI has disclosed in court filings it is investigating former top economic development manager Turkia Mullin and former Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder for corruption.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood faulted Grundy for his “blatant misuse of the public’s trust” and costing taxpayers more than $1.2 million. But she disagreed with prosecutors who asked for 17˝ years, saying Grundy was not as notorious as other public officials convicted of corruption, like former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

“We’re disappointed he is going to prison,” defense lawyer William Swor said outside federal court, who urged the judge to limit the sentence to less than four years. “But here we are.”

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman declined to comment about whether the investigation into Wayne County government is ongoing.

Grundy, who will be ordered to pay an undetermined amount of restitution, left without speaking to reporters. He climbed into a black Dodge Durango, which peeled out in front of federal court while making a U-turn.

The former Wayne County assistant executive, once seen as a rising star in the Ficano administration and helped run his urban campaign, pleaded guilty 13 months ago to wire fraud.

The judge said Grundy claimed to be remorseful, but mostly for putting his family and friends through the ordeal. But she didn’t hold the lack of remorse against Grundy. That’s not required, the judge said.

“This is a serious offense that involved a great deal of money that was supposed to benefit small businesses and people seeking health care at a low price,” the judge said. “Your hard work is undermined by the use of the funds and your blatant misuse of the public’s trust.”

When he pleaded guilty, Grundy acknowledged accepting kickbacks in October 2011 after wiring $400,000 in county funds to pal Keith Griffin’s company.

Grundy was charged with multiple felonies alleging he took kickbacks from contractors while serving as director of Wayne County HealthChoice. He was fired in November 2011.

Grundy “betrayed the public’s trust as well as my administration’s and the sentencing sends a clear message that criminal wrongdoing will not be tolerated in government,” Ficano said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Grundy spent money from HealthChoice to pay credit card debt that in 2011 totaled more than $124,000. He also spent it on sports cars, $157,000 renovating a Detroit home and buying a villa in the Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.

Grundy said he didn’t steal any public money. Instead, he borrowed money from his friend Griffin.

“Michael Grundy never took a dime from poor people,” Swor said.

The judge said if Grundy borrowed money from his friend, there was no promise to repay.

Griffin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in May 2012 and will be sentenced July 15. The plea deal calls for up to 41 months in prison.

rsnell@detroitnews.com
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