Feds: Ex-Macomb politician should get 24 years for bribery

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Dean Reynolds

Detroit — Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds is a self-indulgent, self-entitled, remorseless shakedown artist who should spend as much as 24 years in federal prison for running four bribery schemes, prosecutors said Thursday.

That would represent one of the longest corruption sentences in U.S. history, four years shy of the sentence issued to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and reflect the "staggering" betrayal of Reynolds' constituents in Macomb County, according to the government.

“Simply put, he was more than happy to sell his office for money or use his public post to threaten Township contractors for private gain," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bullotta and David Gardey wrote in a court filing. "And his criminal way of life was no momentary lapse of judgement. Reynolds was known by contractors, including some who testified or appeared on tape at trial, as a 'shakedown artist.' That was a moniker that Reynolds richly earned during his many years of bribery and extortion.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland will sentence Reynolds on Feb. 6.

Former Clinton Township trustee Dean Reynolds is led to a van outside federal court in Port Huron after being convicted of bribery and bribery conspiracy charges on Thursday, June 21, 2018.

A decades-long sentence would eclipse any punishment issued in a political corruption scandal that has led to federal charges against 20 contractors and public officials and produced more than 15 convictions, including trash mogul Chuck Rizzo and towing titan Gasper Fiore. Rizzo is serving more than five years in prison while Fiore was sentenced to 21 months in August.

"A less-than-severe sentence for Reynolds, a prolific yet unrepentant bribe-smith, would greatly undermine the deterrent effect of the government’s corruption investigation for those public officials tempted to sell their office at every turn like Reynolds," the prosecutors wrote.

Reynolds took more than $50,000 cash from Rizzo and $50,000 worth of free legal services in return for supporting Rizzo's trash contract, according to the government filing Thursday. He received $15,000 in bribes from Macomb County engineering contractor Paulin Modi, $8,000 from an undercover FBI agent and Rizzo, and $7,500 from Fiore in exchange for promising to solicit proposals for the township's towing contract.

Chuck Rizzo, left, and Gasper Fiore, right.

"Sadly, the defendant blatantly traded his oath and the faith of his constituents for tens of thousands of dollars in cash," prosecutors wrote.

Reynolds also is the lone person ensnared in the scandal to stand trial. A jury convicted him of four bribery conspiracy counts and ten bribery charges after deliberating for about one hour in June.

He stood trial in federal court after rejecting a plea agreement that called for him to plead guilty to two counts of bribery conspiracy and be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

During the trial, jurors heard government testimony, wiretaps and secretly made recordings between Reynolds, waste hauling contractors and FBI agents that reflect the exchange of thousands of dollars and free legal services in exchange for Reynolds’ political influence in obtaining lucrative township contracts for Rizzo.

"In sum, an examination of the defendant’s history and characteristics paints a stark picture of a self-indulgent, self-entitled shakedown artist who corruptly used his public position for personal gain without the slightest tinge of remorse," prosecutors wrote.

Reynolds is being held at the federal prison in Milan. The judge ordered him jailed despite Reynolds' claim that he needed to be released so he could undergo treatment for kidney cancer. Cleland said recorded jail phone calls between Reynolds and relatives "at least" suggested the former Clinton Township trustee was trying to manipulate evidence.

Reynolds’ lawyer has asked for a maximum five-year sentence.

The public needs to be protected from Reynolds, prosecutors said.

Jailhouse recorded phone calls show Reynolds contemplating another bid for public office should his conviction be overturned on appeal.

“Yeah, if I win my appeal and get found- everything’s either dropped or innocent or whatever,” Reynolds told his son during a phone call last month. “I could do whatever I want again, like it never happened.”

“Would you…would you run for Supervisor [of Clinton Township] again?” his son asked. “I don’t know,” Reynolds said. “We have to sit down and talk about it as a family.”

Reynolds has a history of corruption aside from his stint in public office that involved the United Auto Workers, prosecutors said.

Reynolds’ company Universal Training Center held a contract with the UAW that required Reynolds to pay approximately $100,000 in kickbacks to union officials every year, according to the government.

In return, Reynolds obtained a training contract and grossed as much as $3.4 million annually.

No union officials are identified in the court filing but the UAW has been labeled a co-conspirator in an ongoing labor corruption scandal involving union training centers that has led to seven convictions.

The FBI enlisted Rizzo, who was cooperating with investigators, to pursue whether Reynolds “could get back into the corrupt kickback/training business with the UAW,” according to prosecutors.

In a recorded conversation in March 2016, Reynolds agreed to try to regain the UAW training contracts and include Rizzo as a silent partner, prosecutors said.
The filing does not indicate what happened after the recorded conversation.

“We are unaware of the details of these allegations, but they should be fully investigated and, if true, prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement Thursday.


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Twitter: @robertsnellnews