Ex-Macomb engineer pleads guilty in corruption scandal

Robert Snell

James Pistilli, the former chief engineer of Macomb County, struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors Wednesday, becoming the ninth person to admit guilt for roles in the Macomb County corruption scandal.

Pistilli, 68, of Holly pleaded guilty three weeks after being accused of funneling bribes to a Washington Township official.

Pistilli, who was charged with bribery conspiracy, a 10-year felony, is among 16 people charged in a widening scandal involving several Macomb County communities, trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services, Detroit towing magnate Gasper Fiore and the Macomb County Public Works office.

Pistilli faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine during sentencing Jan. 30 in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. Prosecutors will recommend Pistilli spend 12-18 months in prison.

Pistilli was chief engineer for Macomb County’s public works office from August 2011 until June 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The conspiracy involving Pistilli dates to spring 2014, according to federal court records. He conspired to give $2,000 to Washington Township public works superintendent Steven Hohensee, according to a court filing.

Pistilli and a second man, engineering contractor Paulin Modi, served as middlemen for an unnamed company that was trying to win a contract with Washington Township, according to court records.

Pistilli and Modi worked for the engineering firm Giffels Webster, a company that has numerous municipal contracts in Metro Detroit. Modi struck a plea deal last month.

During the time listed in the court filing, Pistilli worked as a senior project manager for Giffels Webster.

On June 13, 2014, Hohensee and Modi met at a Shelby Township restaurant and discussed inflating the unnamed company’s contract to cover the cost of paying Hohensee a bribe, according to the plea deal.

Pistilli helped facilitate the bribe, prosecutors said.

On Oct. 20, 2014, an employee from the unnamed company met Hohensee in a Shelby Township restaurant and handed Hohensee an envelope containing $2,000 in new $100 bills, prosecutors allege.

Hohensee, however, was working undercover for the FBI, according to court records.

The guilty plea is the latest development in a wide-ranging, ongoing investigation into public officials pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Rizzo and a towing company.

The case against Pistilli is the first time federal prosecutors have charged someone who had worked for former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco.

Four months ago, Marrocco’s successor, Candice Miller, said a federal grand jury was investigating the office and had subpoenaed testimony from about a dozen public employees.

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


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