Bucci arraigned in federal court on corruption charges
Detroit — Dino Bucci, the Macomb Township trustee and former right-hand man of Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, was freed on $10,000 bond Thursday after being arraigned in connection with the county corruption scandal.
U.S. Executive Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen ordered Bucci to surrender his passport and not leave Michigan while awaiting trial in a widening corruption case that has led to charges against 18 people.
Bucci, 58, dressed in a blue suit and flanked by attorney Stephen Rabaut, declined comment while leaving court after the brief arraignment.
The arraignment came one day after Bucci was charged with bribery, extortion, fraud, theft and money laundering in an 18-count indictment that accuses the politician of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars while extorting engineering contractors who wanted public contracts, forcing county employees to drive his child to school and plow snow at his home.
The wide-ranging corruption investigation is focused on at least three fronts: Macomb County politicians pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Sterling Heights trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services, Grosse Pointe Shores businessman Gasper Fiore’s towing empire and the Macomb County Public Works office.
The indictment came one month after Bucci was referenced in a plea deal involving township contractor Christopher Sorrentino. Sorrentino admitted delivering $66,000 in bribes to an unnamed politician at the public works office. The News previously reported that Bucci was the unnamed politician.
Prosecutors allege Bucci participated in a nine-year bribery conspiracy with other public officials and contractors.
The criminal allegations against Bucci involve several other figures who have been charged amid the year-long investigation. Those include Rizzo Environmental Services CEO Chuck Rizzo, former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas and engineering contractor Paulin Modi.
If convicted, Bucci could spend more than 20 years in federal prison.
Bucci directed contractors to give him tens of thousands of dollars in cash, checks and gift cards in exchange for public contracts, according to the government.
Contractors also gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks and cash for political fundraising events, including golf outings and dinners in exchange for county and township contracts, according to the indictment.
During the conspiracy, Bucci also served as operations manager for the county’s public works office.
Prosecutors describe a “pay-to-play” culture that required contractors to give money to Bucci and buy tickets to political fundraisers for the township politician and political allies.
Bucci used his county and township positions to extort money from people by threatening to withhold development permits and home construction, prosecutors said. Bucci pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in cash and kickbacks during a five-year period, according to the indictment.
Bucci stole from the county by using employees and equipment on personal projects, prosecutors said. He forced employees to plow snow at his home and mom’s house “every time it snowed,” prosecutors said.
During heavy snowfalls, Bucci forced county employees to plow at his friends’ and relatives’ homes, according to the indictment.
County employees were forced to plow snow at Bucci’s home before plowing county facilities, prosecutors said.
The charges also come six months after Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said a federal grand jury was investigating her office during Marrocco’s tenure and had subpoenaed testimony from about a dozen public employees.
FBI agents were asking questions about Marrocco, who lost to Miller in the November election; Bucci, his former deputy; and millions of dollars in payments to an unnamed county contractor, Miller said.
The indictment capped a tumultuous year for Bucci.
He was placed on administrative leave from his $75,000-a-year job as operations manager for the engineering department in January. He retired after being accused in a civil lawsuit of soliciting a $76,000 kickback from a local investment company that wanted a refund on certain development fees.
In February, Miller wrote a letter accusing Bucci of “corruption, extortion, bullying and unethical behavior” while outlining how a county internal investigation determined he could face discipline or be fired.
Rather than respond to Miller’s letter, Bucci resigned after working for the county since 1993.