Former Detroit cop pleads guilty to taking bribes from tower

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The former Detroit police official who oversaw abandoned vehicle auctions pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to accepting bribes from an unnamed tower for nearly two years.

Alonzo Jones, 55, of Detroit pleaded guilty to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"I gave some paperwork without going through the proper procedures, and I accepted money from one of the tow companies," Jones told U.S. District Judge George C. Steeh during a hearing in federal court downtown.

Jones accepted bribes from an undercover federal agent in exchange for providing falsified TR-52 forms, which are bills of sale filed with the Michigan Secretary of State. The bills were for seized and abandoned vehicles sold at auction and transferred ownership of the vehicles to the towing industry figure and federal agent.

Retired Detroit police officer Alonzo Jones is one of several officers charged in connection with “Operation Northern Hook," a broader FBI investigation of bribery, extortion and fraud within City Hall and municipal towing operations that in September yielded its first conviction: Detroit City Councilman André Spivey.

Jones is the fourth person who has been charged in "Operation Northern Hook," a wide-ranging towing corruption scandal that also has ensnared Detroit City Council members, including Andre Spivey, who pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $36,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent and informant in exchange for supporting a towing issue pending in front of City Council.

Jones' guilty plea comes less than a month after two other Detroit cops — including Lt. John Kennedy, who headed the Detroit Police internal affairs unit — were charged with towing-related corruption.

Moments before Jones' guilty plea Tuesday, he was arraigned on bribery charges. He is accused of receiving approximately $3,200 in bribes from July 2019 to May 2021.

Jones, who oversaw the Detroit Police Vehicle Auction from 2009 until he retired in May after being suspended, was stoic during his two hearings Tuesday, acknowledging that he understood the terms of his plea deal and that he would not be able to appeal.

Jones will be allowed to travel to Ohio and Illinois for an already-scheduled vacation, but he must seek permission from federal Pre-Trial Services to do any other traveling, 

The government recommended Jones serve half or less of the maximum sentence, plus three years of supervised release.

“Investigating and prosecuting bad cops is a top priority for our office because bad cops erode the public’s trust in law enforcement,” acting Detroit U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin said in a statement. “The vast majority of police officers are honest, dedicated, and hard-working individuals. But police officers who line their pockets with bribes, no matter how big or small will be held accountable for their actions."

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 15.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN