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Corruption scandal reaches Washington Township

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal prosecutors charged an engineering contractor Tuesday with bribing a Washington Township public official, the latest salvo in an widespread public corruption scandal.

Paulin Modi, 48, of Troy was charged with conspiracy to bribe a public official. Modi allegedly paid the unnamed official a $1,000 cash bribe in May 2014 to secure a public contract, according to prosecutors. Modi also allegedly helped facilitate a $2,000 cash bribe from another contractor to the same public official between June and October 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Modi is the eighth person charged in a corruption scandal involving numerous Macomb County communities, trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services and the Macomb County Public Works office.

Until last month, Modi was a partner with Detroit-based engineering firm Giffels Webster, a company that has numerous municipal contracts in Metro Detroit.

“Wow, wow,” township Clerk Kathy Bosheers said late Tuesday after learning about the criminal case.

She said she was unaware of the investigation and did not know the identity of the public official accused of pocketing bribes.

The unnamed public official was not an elected leader of Washington Township and no longer works for the community, The Detroit News has learned.

“It’s not me,” Bosheers said.

The FBI and federal prosecutors learned of the alleged criminal contact after receiving tips from Washington Township Supervisor Dan O’Leary. Prosecutors called him “a valuable asset to the investigation since its inception.”

“Washington Township residents should rest assured that we have a clean and very well-run government,” O’Leary told The News. “This particular revelation only confirms the fact that we don’t tolerate this kind of behavior in our community.”

O’Leary’s role in the investigation encouraged Bosheers, his elected colleague.

“That is refreshing,” Bosheers said. “That is huge. It’s good to see somebody did something about it.”

Modi was charged in a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is expected. The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

His lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Modi and Giffels Webster served as the township’s engineer for about seven years, Bosheers said.

The firm handled the bulk of engineering work for Washington Township in northwest Macomb County, Bosheers said.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Modi left Giffels Webster after 19 years in April.

Giffels Webster leaders did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Six people charged in the corruption investigation have either pleaded guilty or reached plea deals with the government. The bulk of those charged committed crimes in connection with Rizzo, a Sterling Heights company that is accused of bribing public officials as it expanded a business empire that reached 54 Metro Detroit communities.

Those charged include:

Shelby Township resident Quintin Ramanauskas, a former commercial manager with trash-hauling firm Rizzo Environmental Services.

Ramanauskas, 53, left a $3,000 bribe for Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds in November 2015 and a bribe totaling several thousand dollars for former Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock in fall 2015, according to court records.

Ramanauskas is scheduled to plead guilty June 30 in federal court.

Lovelock is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday, the same day as former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas.

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

Former New Haven trustees Christopher Craigmiles and Brett Harris also were 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.

Reynolds, the former Clinton Township trustee, is the only public official that has not reached a plea deal with the government.

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.

Angelo Selva of Macomb Township is accused of concealing a bribery conspiracy involving Reynolds, a Rizzo Environmental Services executive and the company’s lawyer in September 2015.

Selva is scheduled to plead guilty June 5 in federal court.

Two weeks ago, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said a federal grand jury is investigating her office and has subpoenaed testimony from about a dozen public employees.

FBI agents are asking questions about Miller’s predecessor, Anthony Marrocco; his former deputy, Dino Bucci, and millions of dollars in payments to an unnamed county contractor, Miller said.

rsnell@detnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews