Prison-bound Fiore a humbled towing titan, lawyer says

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Gasper Fiore

Detroit — Towing titan Gasper Fiore is a hard-working family man unafraid to "get his hands dirty," a generous civic leader who is humbled by having bribed Macomb County politicians while building a business empire, his lawyer said. 

The characterization was contained in a sentencing memo Tuesday, two weeks before the Grosse Pointe Shores business mogul faces a possible two-year prison sentence for his role in a wide-ranging public corruption scandal.

Fiore, 57, a dominant figure in the Metro Detroit towing industry and fringe figure in the Detroit City Hall racketeering case against ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is arguably the highest-profile person ensnared in a Macomb County corruption scandal that has led to federal charges against 20 contractors and public officials.

The former owner of Boulevard and Trumbull Towing will be sentenced Aug. 2 by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. The advisory sentencing guidelines call for 18-to-24 months in prison but prosecutors will recommend Fiore spend up to 21 months behind bars, according to the plea deal.

"Gasper Fiore has accepted responsibility for his conduct," defense lawyer Robert Morgan wrote in the sentencing memo. "He knows it was serious and wrong. It was one part of a broad range of bribery payments to Macomb County public officials. There is no attempt here to minimize or obfuscate."

Fiore pleaded guilty in December, admitting he bribed former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds 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 to buy Reynolds’ vote to select Fiore’s company to receive the Clinton Township towing contract.

The bribery conspiracy charge to which Fiore pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. 

Fiore, a recurring figure in a series of corruption investigations spanning Macomb County and Detroit, was caught on secret FBI wiretaps that illustrated the influence he wielded over local officials and his attempts to rig the system in his favor.

In 2016, FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman chronicled wiretapped conversations involving Fiore as part of a request to continue tapping the towing titan's phone.

The federal records show Fiore allegedly was involved in questionable activity involving individuals on the Detroit Police Department, Detroit City Council, Highland Park Police Department and the Michigan State Police.

The agent also wrote when he filed the June 2, 2016, request: “The last 30 days of interceptions of wire and electronic communications have yielded evidence indicating that Fiore is committing several of the crimes he was suspected of committing, including bribing public officials.

The News exclusively obtained the FBI agent's wiretap request, which was temporarily unsealed in federal court before a judge resealed the document.

In May 2016, FBI agents were tapping Fiore’s phone and overheard the towing mogul discuss fundraising for Detroit city council members and candidates. One conversation touched on several council members, including Andre Spivey, council President Brenda Jones and Gabe Leland.

At the time, Leland was dating Fiore’s daughter Jennifer.

The FBI was investigating whether Detroit police officers accepted bribes from body shops and towing companies, according to the affidavit.

In one wiretapped conversation, Fiore talked to his ex-wife Joan Fiore about the towing investigation and Detroit Police Chief James Craig, according to court records.

"In Fiore’s conversation with Joan, it appears that Chief Craig briefed Gabe Leland about the towing case, and Leland has briefed the Fiore family about it,” Beeckman wrote in a court filing.

In an interview with The News in December, Craig insisted he never told Leland anything about the investigation. He said he contacted the FBI after a 2016 meeting with the Detroit city councilman.

“He said he wanted to meet with me for the purpose of discussing something unrelated to towing, but once he gets into the meeting with me, he starts asking about the towing investigation,” Craig told The News. “It’s not my investigation, so I didn’t have anything to give him. I never felt comfortable with him, so I made sure to have a witness in the room with me during this meeting.

“I was not comfortable with Leland’s questions, and I immediately contacted the FBI as soon as he left the room and told them he was asking me questions about the towing investigation.”

Fiore’s wiretapped conversations describe his distaste for Leland.

“He's another guy that -- there with a tight suit on, with a cheap tie and got a hole in the side of his pants on the pocket cuz he don't want to buy a pair of pants,” Fiore said in one recorded conversation.

In another conversation, Fiore labeled the Detroit councilman a "mooch."

In a May 2016 conversation, Fiore complained about paying for unspecified items for Leland.

In the sentencing memo Tuesday, Fiore's lawyer chronicled the mogul's rise from high-school dropout who started a towing business at age 16. The sentencing memo included 80 letters from relatives, former employees and law enforcement personnel.

"The letters speak of a long list of selfless giving both to established civic, community, church and various charities as well as individual acts of kindness to employees, their families and strangers on the street," Morgan wrote.

"Gasper Fiore has an unrivaled love of family. Gasper Fiore has an unmatched work ethic, a point the government will not likely quarrel with. Gasper Fiore has a huge heart and lifelong sincere history of helping others. He is genuinely remorseful."

Anthony Thomas of Fair Haven described the scandal's impact on his friend.

"I see a man who is ashamed, embarrassed and very remorseful," Thomas wrote. "I see a man who looks at his children and grandchildren with uncertainty. I see a person that I love and respect change in appearance from the guilt and stress he has put his family through."

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Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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