A scheduled court hearing for a former Macomb Township trustee facing criminal bribery charges has been delayed to allow plea negotiations to continue in the case and to give federal officials more time to seek an indictment.
Clifford Freitas was expected to appear Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit for a preliminary examination on a criminal complaint charging him with demanding and taking bribes in exchange for official help on a municipal contract.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit and Freitas’ defense attorney agreed to adjourn the case to give both sides more time to work on a resolution, either through a plea deal or to extend the time allowed for a grand jury to consider an indictment.
According to court records, both sides “continue to be engaged in pre-indictment plea negotiations and desire to continue plea negotiations through at least March 13, 2017.”
It is the third adjournment of a preliminary examination for Freitas, 43, who was arrested by FBI agents on Oct. 25. His arrest is part of a widespread federal probe into municipal garbage contracts in Macomb County.
Prosecutors allege Freitas engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity, including demanding and accepting money in exchange for official acts as a trustee.
The vendor was not identified in court records, but township documents on the hiring of Rizzo Environmental Services last year match up with details in the criminal complaint. Toronto-based GFL acquired Rizzo on Oct. 1.
According to board of trustees minutes, on Sept. 23, 2015, the township approved, 5-0, the only municipal contract before it — a five-year waste contract with Rizzo, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015.
According to the complaint, that same day, the FBI recorded a conversation between Freitas and a vendor representative — who was working with federal authorities at the time — in which the vendor told Freitas to make sure the board approves the contract.
Freitas, whose term on the township board ended Nov. 20, abstained from the vote because he was a project manager for Rizzo. According to Freitas’ LinkedIn profile, he left the company in October.
Freitas faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.