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Ex-Macomb trustee to plead in bribery case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit – Former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas has struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging public corruption case, according to court records.

Freitas, 44, is expected to plead guilty June 1 in federal court, a move that means prosecutors are close to securing convictions against four of five former public officials charged in a wide-ranging bribery conspiracy involving trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services.

The nature of the plea hearing is unclear but Freitas is charged with bribery conspiracy involving federal funds, a five-year felony.

Freitas is accused of pocketing $7,500 in bribes from Rizzo between July 2015 and January 2016.

His lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Freitas was arrested in October by FBI agents on a criminal complaint charging him with demanding and taking bribes in exchange for official help on a municipal contract. He’s accused of accepting $7,500 from Rizzo in return for helping the trash hauler secure a contract with the township.

After the firm was awarded the contract in fall 2015, Freitas demanded an additional $35,000 from the company representative for his additional help as a public official relating to the contract, according to the complaint.

Freitas was the Republican incumbent but lost an August primary race. He was elected to the Macomb Township Board of Trustees in 2012 and simultaneously worked as a project manager for Rizzo — a job he held from June 2013 to October 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The expected guilty plea leaves former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds as the only person charged in the corruption case without a plea deal.

Reynolds was indicted in November and accused of taking $50,000 to $70,000 in cash from Rizzo in exchange for supporting the firm’s $3.5 million annual contract bid. He also was charged with taking $17,000 in cash from an undercover FBI agent.

Five former public officials have been charged in the ongoing scandal.

Former Chesterfield Township supervisor Michael Lovelock also is expected to plead guilty June 1. In November, he was indicted on four counts of conspiracy and demanding bribes in exchange for corruptly influencing his decisions as a supervisor.

Federal prosecutors accused him of taking multiple bribes totaling more than $30,000 from 2010-16 from a company that had a “significant contract” with Chesterfield Township. Rizzo has provided the company’s trash services for the past 12 years, officials say.

Former New Haven trustees Christopher Craigmiles and Brett Harris were also accused of taking bribes from an FBI agent posing as a Rizzo employee.

Both have reached plea deals and are awaiting sentencing dates in federal court.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews