Detroit Metro scandal widens as second contractor charged

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Federal prosecutors charged a Detroit Metropolitan Airport contractor Tuesday, who is accused of bribing an airport official to obtain contracts worth more than $5 million.

Detroit — A corruption investigation involving rigged contracts at Detroit Metropolitan Airport widened Tuesday when a contractor was charged in federal court with bribing an airport official.

William Pritula, 69, of Romulus was charged with federal program bribery, a 10-year felony, and the nature of the charge indicates he is expected to plead guilty amid the ongoing investigation.

According to prosecutors, Pritula received $5.47 million after bribing an unnamed official with the Wayne County Airport Authority, which manages and operates Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports. 

The criminal charge was filed more than one month after another contractor, Gary Tenaglia, was charged with participating in a conspiracy that defrauded the Wayne County Airport Authority out of $1.5 million.

The conspiracy involves Tenaglia’s firm, Envision Engineering & Maintenance, and a $1.5 million contract to remove snow and ice from the Blue Deck parking structure at the airport. According to court records, Tenaglia conspired with at least two other people who are not named in the court filing.

Tenaglia, 64, a multimillionaire businessman from Rochester, also is expected to plead guilty.

Pritula, meanwhile, is president and owner of his namesake firm, William A. Pritula & Sons, LLC. The firm has worked as an airport contractor for at least eight years and secured contracts for facility and infrastructure maintenance and water main, storm sewer and sanitary system distribution repairs.

From May 2010 to October 2014, Pritula gave the unnamed airport official bribes to influence and reward the official for helping secure airport deals, according to court records.

Prosecutors want a $5.47 million judgment against Pritula. The sum represents gross proceeds obtained by Pritula, according to court records.

Pritula's lawyer, Ben Gonek, declined comment Tuesday. 

“The Wayne County Airport Authority is aware of the criminal complaint that was filed today against William Pritula," spokeswoman Erica Donerson said in a statement Tuesday. "Since late 2014, the Airport Authority has not had any contracts with Pritula companies or the individual, William Pritula. We cannot comment further at this time given the pending proceedings.”

The airport authority trumpeted Pritula's firm when it won a $2.6 million maintenance contract in 2010.


“We have seen repeatedly how spending on transportation infrastructure turns out to be an investment in our future,” then-Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said. “I congratulate Pritula & Sons for their successful bid.”

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