Feds slam Spivey for lying, failing polygraph in Detroit corruption probe

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal prosecutors Friday slammed former Detroit Councilman André Spivey for misleading a federal judge about whether he cooperated with an ongoing corruption investigation, leaking the identity of an FBI confidential source and trying to obstruct investigators.

The filing Friday accuses Spivey and other city officials of obstructing federal agents and warning FBI targets that they were under investigation for crimes.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gardey and Frances Carlson wrote a rare, nine-page rebuke of Spivey's attempt to avoid prison for pocketing almost $36,000 in bribes from an unidentified towing official. In asking U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts for leniency Tuesday, Spivey claimed he helped the government's ongoing investigation.

Former Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey apologized to a federal judge Wednesday before he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for bribery.

"However, rather than cooperating, Spivey actually obstructed and lied repeatedly during his debriefings with FBI agents and prosecutors," the prosecutors wrote. "Spivey lied when he denied accepting bribes from other Detroit businessmen. In fact, Spivey failed a polygraph examination on October 22, 2020, on the issue of whether he had accepted bribes from a particular Detroit business owner who had issues pending before the City Council."

Prosecutors want Spivey to spend 40 months in federal prison and have portrayed him as a greedy hypocrite who received bribes on eight separate occasions from a towing industry official during a five-year period ending in 2020. The unnamed official, referred to in court filings as a "confidential source," or CS for short, was seeking favors and trying to buy the councilman's vote.

Spivey, 47, considered the source a friend and blamed his willingness to accept bribes on a series of financial problems that led to him seeking "loans" from friends and associates, according to his lawyer, Elliott Hall.

Spivey will be sentenced Wednesday, four months after pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge and admitting he and an unnamed aide received almost $36,000 in bribes. The Detroit News has identified the aide as his chief of staff, Keith Jones.

Spivey resigned after pleading guilty — politicians convicted of corruption-related crimes are prohibited from holding state or local office — and his conviction marked the second vacancy on the city's governing board last year since Councilman Gabe Leland quit in May after pleading guilty to a state misconduct charge.

Spivey, a former minister, is the highest-ranking person convicted in an ongoing crackdown on public corruption within city government and the police department involving municipal towing operations. Five people have been charged with crimes and more remain under investigation as part of a broader hunt for evidence of bribes, extorted contractors or illegal benefits funneled through nonprofits. 

That investigation includes former Councilwoman Janeé  Ayers and Councilman Scott Benson. Their homes and offices were raided by FBI agents in August as part of “Operation Northern Hook," which included searches at the homes of their chiefs of staff.

Spivey warned his staff member — Jones — to "watch out for law enforcement," and outed the FBI's informant by telling Jones the name of the FBI's confidential source who paid the bribes, prosecutors wrote. 

In June, Spivey outed the FBI source to another unidentified city official, prosecutors wrote in the filing.

"The public official subsequently informed other individuals in city government of the identity of the FBI confidential source, who then passed the information on to a target of the government’s investigation," according to the filing. 

"Spivey leaked all of this information despite the admonitions of the FBI agents that he keep his dealings with them confidential or he could harm his efforts to cooperate," prosecutors added.

The government filing Friday chronicles Spivey’s deception.

He met repeatedly with federal officials during the investigation and “emphatically denied receiving any bribes,” according to prosecutors, even though the bribe payments were captured on hidden recording devices.

In hopes of resolving the conflict, Spivey underwent a polygraph examination. He denied receiving bribes from the unidentified businessman.

“After being informed that he had failed the examination, Spivey changed his story and stated that ‘there could have been instances where he received a bribe from 'the business owner,'” prosecutors wrote. “However, Spivey would not provide any specific details about those bribes. In a subsequent interview, Spivey again denied receiving bribes from that individual.”

Prosecutors faulted Spivey for claiming the bribes were "loans" from friends. In one instance, he asked the FBI source for $1,500 for a birthday trip to Las Vegas in early 2018, prosecutors said.

The government included excerpts of a recorded conversation between Spivey and the FBI source on Feb. 17, 2018.

"I need your help with something, man," Spivey said.

"What do you got?" the FBI source said.

"I’m a little short," Spivey said. "If you can, man. We going to uh, see...out in Vegas."

"You need it for Vegas. I got you," the FBI source said.

"Yeah," Spivey said. "I appreciate it."

"I’ll get you, I’ll get you a little more," the source said. 

Spivey ultimately received $2,000 for the trip, prosecutors said.

"This obviously does not create the best impression for a pastor, minister, and city councilman, but it is the truth, and the court should not be misled into thinking Spivey used the $35,900 for groceries and necessities," prosecutors wrote.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews