Macomb politician gets 20 months in prison for corruption

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Macomb Twp. Trustee Clifford Freitas exits federal court in Detroit after being charged in a bribery case.

Former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison Tuesday, the stiffest term for a politician convicted in the Macomb County corruption scandal.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland sentenced Freitas, 45, for pocketing $42,000 in bribes in exchange for helping garbage mogul Chuck Rizzo win a $16 million township trash contract.

Freitas was among several politicians ensnared in a scandal that has led to criminal charges against 20 people and more than a dozen convictions. Federal prosecutors warned in May that more people are likely to face charges.

He pleaded guilty to a five-year bribery charge in June.

Also Tuesday, Angelo Selva of Macomb Township was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison. He helped give thousands of dollars in cash, free legal services and labor to former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds in exchange for securing his vote on a Rizzo trash-hauling contract, according to federal court records.

Freitas was the Republican incumbent but lost an August 2016 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.

Freitas immediately cooperated with investigators and helped secure convictions against Rizzo, the trash mogul's father Charles Rizzo and a third man, Rizzo employee Quintin Ramanauskas, prosecutors said.

Freitas, a political neophyte, was groomed by Rizzo and fellow Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci into the corrupt world of Macomb County politics, his defense lawyer Daniel Garon wrote in a court filing.

Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci, right, and his attorney Stephen Rabaut in November.

Bucci, the onetime right-hand man of former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, was charged last year with bribery, extortion, fraud, theft and money laundering in an 18-count indictment.

Prosecutors accuse Bucci 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.

FBI agents secretly videotaped Bucci receiving a bribe and wiretapped the burner cellphone that was supposed to help him dodge law enforcement surveillance, according to court records that portray the indicted politician as a bungling crook.

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