Towing magnate Gasper Fiore made a surprise guilty plea Wednesday, landing prosecutors arguably the highest-profile person charged in the wide-ranging Macomb County public corruption scandal.
The Grosse Pointe Shores business mogul, 57, former owner of Boulevard and Trumbull Towing, the city’s largest tow firm, has long been a dominant figure in the Metro Detroit towing industry. His firm has municipal contracts in several communities, and federal prosecutors say Fiore built his empire by bribing at least one elected official.
That former politician is Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds, authorities said. Fiore and Reynolds are charged with multiple counts of bribery-related offenses in connection with a towing contract.
Fiore admitted at the plea hearing that he conspired to pay bribes to Reynolds in order to obtain a municipal towing contract with the township. Fiore admitted to giving Reynolds cash bribes of $4,000 and $3,000 in March and May of 2016 in order to buy Reynolds’ vote to select Fiore’s company to receive the Clinton Township towing contract.
The bribery conspiracy charge to which Fiore pled guilty carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. A sentencing date has been set for May 1.
Prosecutors will recommend Fiore spend up to 21 months in federal prison, according to the plea deal.
The plea comes seven months after Fiore was indicted in a scandal focused on at least three fronts: Macomb County politicians pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Sterling Heights trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services, Fiore’s towing empire and the Macomb County Public Works office.
The investigation has led to charges against 18 people and 12 convictions so far.
Acting United States Attorney Lemisch said, “Today’s guilty plea is a significant blow to corruption in southeast Michigan," Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch said in a statement. "Bribery subverts representative government, and this conviction demonstrates that such conduct, by either public officials or bribe payers, will not be tolerated.”
Rizzo, his father Charles Rizzo, Fiore and others plotted to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from Rizzo Environmental Services using a fake legal settlement agreement, fraudulent consulting deals, kickbacks, shell companies and stealing money to help pay for Chuck Rizzo’s mansion in Bloomfield Township, the government alleges.
Fiore also was a minor figure in the corruption case against Kilpatrick in 2012.
That year, Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson were charged in federal court and accused of allegedly extorting more than $90,000 from Fiore.
Federal prosecutors later dropped the Fiore allegation to avoid a potential conflict of interest involving Kilpatrick's lawyer.