Ex-Plymouth Twp. official charged in corruption scandal

The Detroit News

A former Plymouth Township official became the latest person charged in connection with a wide-ranging public corruption scandal in Metro Detroit.

Michael Mitchell, 49, of Rockford, Illinois, was charged Wednesday with one count of theft from a local government receiving federal assistance, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced.

Mitchell was charged in a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is expected.

According to authorities, Mitchell was director of parks and grants for Plymouth Township in October 2016 when he stole property belonging to the township, including a commercial lawnmower, a John Deere Gator utility vehicle and other equipment, with a total value of about $10,000.

Mitchell faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 if convicted.

“When public officials use their jobs to steal from taxpayers, their theft isn’t just measured in dollars – it is measured by the damage caused by robbing the public of honest government,” Schneider said in a statement. “We will stand up and fight this corruption at all levels.”

The case against Mitchell is part of the government’s wide-ranging corruption investigation in Metro Detroit that’s centered on Macomb County.

That investigation has been 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.

In a statement, Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise said: “The former Township administration hired and retained Mr. Mitchell. The public now deserves answers – what did they know and when did they know it?

“It is also interesting to note that the FBI said the Mitchell indictment was part of an ongoing investigation of corruption in Macomb County. We all know what that means – Rizzo Waste.”

Chuck Rizzo, the former CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services, pleaded guilty in November to bribing Macomb County politicians and stealing money from the trash hauling firm.