Feds file bribery case against Postal Service and Historic Fort Wayne official

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit federal prosecutors Wednesday charged a U.S. Postal Service official with accepting bribes, including construction work on his cottage and free hotel rooms, in return for awarding government contracts.

Postal Service facilities engineer Thomas Berlucchi, 61, of Troy allegedly received the bribes from 2013-18 while awarding contracts to Horizons Materials & Management LLC, a Rochester Hills company owned by Michael Rymar.

Tom Berlucchi, chairman of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, stands inside the compound near the barracks inside Old Fort Wayne, in Detroit, November 12, 2020.

The criminal case was filed five months after Rymar pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1 million from the postal service. His company was awarded more than $5 million worth of contracts for repairs on postal service buildings in Michigan and New York.

Rymar is awaiting sentencing in federal court.

Berlucchi, meanwhile, is a prominent figure in the historic preservation community. He is chairman of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, a nonprofit devoted to preserving and restoring a fort that dates to 1845.

Berlucchi was charged in a criminal information, which indicates he is expected to plead guilty to a crime punishable by up to two years in federal prison. His lawyer Robert Morgan declined comment.

The criminal case does not specify how much Berlucchi is alleged to have received in bribes. But they included "donations to Berlucchi's preferred organization." It was unclear if the organization was Historic Fort Wayne.

His status with the historic nonprofit was unclear Wednesday. He is still listed as chairman on the nonprofit's website but Vice Chairman Will Eichler and Treasurer Andre Kropacek could not be reached for comment.

Berlucchi has had a long career with the postal service.

In 1990, the maintenance worker was injured after an envelope addressed to "tax thieves" exploded outside the Royal Oak post office. Berlucchi suffered burns on his hands and face.

Berlucchi is the latest public official charged in a more than decade-long crackdown on corruption in Metro Detroit.

Federal court in Metro Detroit has led the nation in the number of corruption and labor corruption defendants and cases in recent years. 

In the last dozen years, more than 110 labor leaders, politicians, police officers and bureaucrats have been charged with federal corruption-related crimes, according to a database built by The Detroit News.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews