Demo contractor ordered to trial on fraud claims

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

A former state contractor accused of overbilling the Detroit Land Bank Authority for services related to asbestos removal and blight demolition was ordered Thursday to stand trial on the claims.

Barry Ellentuck, 53, of West Bloomfield Township, president of ADR Consulting LLC, is accused of pressuring an employee to falsify invoices and overbill the land bank an extra 100 hours at $55 an hour.

On Thursday, 48th District Court Judge Marc Barron ordered the case to proceed to Oakland County Circuit Court. Officials say an arraignment date is pending.

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office charged Ellentuck in December with one count of attempted false pretenses with intent to defraud the government between $1,000-$20,000. The felony carries a 2 1/2-year jail sentence.

Ellentuck’s attorney, Joe Lavigne, said Thursday that Ellentuck maintains he was wrongly accused and that the claims were made against him by a disgruntled former employee of his firm. The total billing fraud alleged is between $5,500 and $6,000, he said.

“He’s very resolute and comfortable that he didn’t do anything wrong, and he’s doing everything he can to operate his business,” Lavigne said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to try the case if that’s necessary, and we feel that by the time the case is over, he’ll be exonerated.”

Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Schuette’s office, said in a statement Thursday that “the case is proceeding to trial as we expected.”

ADR was under contract with the Michigan Land Bank to provide consulting services to the Detroit Land Bank for inspecting asbestos removal and other blighted housing demolition work through an intergovernmental agreement.

Officials have said the state and city land banks did not pay ADR for the alleged overbilling. The agencies spotted “inconsistencies in the work completed versus hours billed,” prompting an inquiry, Schuette’s office said in December.

Ellentuck’s company filed suits against the Michigan and Detroit land bank authorities, claiming owed payments.

Separately, the state’s housing development agency has sued ADR for fraud, breach of contract and conversion. The state’s lawsuit alleges a breach of contract on claims that ADR falsified time sheets and forged inspector signatures on documents it submitted to the state to receive payments.