Rizzo lawyer convicted of bribery in Macomb County corruption crackdown

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Jurors deliberated for about an hour Wednesday before convicting a lawyer of three federal bribery counts after prosecutors say he teamed with trash titan Chuck Rizzo to bribe a Macomb County politician.

Jay Schwartz, 55, of Northville faces up to 10 years in federal prison following a three-day trial in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. He was convicted of two counts of bribery and one count of bribery conspiracy.

Jay Schwartz

The lawyer is one of the rare defendants charged in a public corruption case to go to trial in federal court in recent years during a prolonged prosecution of bribery and other wrongdoing involving Metro Detroit politicians. Those who have gone to trial in the last decade — including former Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick, Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds and Detroit Metropolitan Airport manager James Warner — have been convicted and sentenced to at least 10 years in federal prison.

Schwartz was a fringe figure in a broader crackdown on Macomb County corruption that has led to the convictions of more than 20 contractors and public officials. Schwartz, who will be sentenced March 17, was accused of bribing Reynolds with cash and free legal services and helping conceal the bribes. 

Schwartz's lawyer Gerald Gleeson could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

The bribery conspiracy ran from 2014 to 2016 when Rizzo was trying to secure and maintain an $18 million trash-hauling contract in Clinton Township, according to the government.

Schwartz served as Rizzo's business lawyer as the trash mogul built a sprawling empire across Metro Detroit.

Former Rizzo Environmental Services CEO Chuck Rizzo leaves the Federal Court Building in Port Huron in 2017 after pleading guilty to a number of charges involving conspiring to bribe politicians and embezzlement.

The lawyer was captured on an FBI wiretap targeting Rizzo and several area politicians, including former Macomb County Public Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, who is awaiting trial in an extortion case.

The wiretap recorded Reynolds and friend Angelo Selva talking in July 2015. The duo discussed Rizzo and Schwartz providing free legal services in exchange for help with a Clinton Township garbage contract, according to the indictment.

One month later, FBI agents were listening to a wiretap of Rizzo's phone.

During one call, Schwartz told the trash mogul that Rizzo needed to provide $5,000 to pay for expenses related to Reynolds' divorce, according to the indictment. Schwartz suggested the payment be disguised as a third-party loan, prosecutors allege.

In September 2015, Schwartz sent a blank promissory note to Reynolds that was used to conceal bribe payments from Rizzo, according to the government.

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.

Two months later, Reynolds allegedly received a $3,000 cash bribe from Rizzo, who was sentenced to 66 months in prison.

Reynolds, meanwhile, is serving a 17-year prison sentence. 

His trial testimony focused on Schwartz and his Farmington Hills law firm. Schwartz and associate Carmen Moyer represented Reynolds during his divorce and provided as much as $56,000 worth of free legal help, FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman testified.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews