Ex-Detroit official sent to prison in demolition scandal

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A city official who received as much as $26,500 in bribes from a contractor while rigging bids to tear down homes in Detroit’s federally funded demolition program was sentenced to one year in federal prison Monday.

Aradondo Haskins

The sentence for Aradondo Haskins, 48, of Detroit, represents the latest fallout from a corruption scandal clouding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's program to rehabilitate the post-bankrupt city.

Prosecutors wanted Haskins, a former field operations manager for the Detroit Building Authority, to spend up to 30 months in prison for rigging bids and steering work to contractor Rich Berg, an executive with the Detroit firm Environmental Specialty Services.

Haskins' corrupt actions spanned his employment for prominent contractor Adamo Group and his tenure working for the building authority from 2015 until he was fired in 2016, prosecutors said.

"In doing so, he eroded the trust our community places in the city of Detroit to carry out federally funded programs designed to better our community," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Haskins learned his lesson, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said, but she added the crime necessitated a prison sentence.

"The actions of Mr. Haskins and others are nothing less than a complete betrayal of the public trust," Roberts said. "No way on earth could this conduct be described as aberrant."

Haskins, who has agreed to forfeit $26,500 and pay a $5,000 fine, hung his head and took a deep breath after hearing the sentence.

"I disappointed my mother, I let my kids down and I let myself down," Haskins told the judge before apologizing to the government "and the citizens of Detroit for betraying their trust."

Haskins' lawyer tried to keep the former city official out of prison, arguing Haskins was indoctrinated into a "pay-to-play" culture.

"Mr. Haskins never demanded money from anyone, but he did willingly accept several payments over a relatively short period of time," defense lawyer David Burgess wrote to the judge.

Haskins pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison.

Mayoral spokesman John Roach on Monday called Haskins "a low-level manager who supervised a handful of field employees and played no role in policymaking with the demolition program."  

Haskins is one of two people convicted in federal court of a pattern of corruption involving demolition contractors and dozens of secret payoffs. The corruption undermined the integrity of an unprecedented plan to remove thousands of dangerous, blighted structures in a city decimated by the Great Recession, prosecutors said.

The sentence came two weeks after Anthony DaGuanno, 62, of New Baltimore, a former estimator for Adamo Group, was sentenced to a year in federal prison.

Anthony Daguanno

In 2015, Berg's company was awarded $545,000 in federally funded work from the Detroit Land Bank for asbestos abatement involving 55 properties, according to the land bank.

That does not account for federal dollars the company may have received as a subcontractor under the program. 

Berg, who is identified as "Contractor A" in court filings, has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"Is 'Contractor A' being investigated?" the judge asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Resnick Cohen.

"That process has been underway and has concluded," the prosecutor said. "Because the nature of that process is not public, I would prefer not to discuss it in a public forum."

After DaGuanno and Haskins pleaded guilty April 9, prosecutors took the unusual step of announcing they did not expect to bring any more charges "as of today’s date" against public officials for wrongdoing in Detroit’s federally funded demolition program.

The city has received more than $265 million in mostly federal funds in the past six years and removed more than 12,300 structures under the federal program but questions about whether the money was misspent have dogged Duggan's two terms in office.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews