Lawsuit: Police illegally raid home, business, seize property

George Hunter
The Detroit News

In the latest lawsuit involving members of a former multi-jurisdictional auto theft task force, the owner of a used auto parts shop accuses police officers of targeting him because he's Arab-American, and illegally raiding his business and seizing property.

Attorneys for Ray Fayad, owner of Rock Auto Depot in Belleville, filed a lawsuit in December in U.S. District Court's Eastern District against police and city officials in Highland Park, Ecorse and Hamtramck. The suit names as defendants the cities, their police chiefs, police officers and a confidential informant who works with Highland Park police.

The officers in the lawsuit were members of the COBRA auto theft task force that included cops from Detroit, Highland Park, Ecorse and Hamtramck. The task force disbanded last year after its funding expired.

The cities named in the suit and officers involved in the COBRA unit have been the subject of previous controversies and lawsuits.

The latest suit claims that on Jan. 8, 2016, the officers "fabricated probable cause in order to conduct a raid on (Fayad's) business ... (the officers) not only raided the property under false pretenses, but they stripped the property of dozens of whole vehicles, hundreds of major auto parts ... expensive machinery and tools, as well as other property."

The suit further claims the officers raided Fayad's Dearborn home "in order to create the illusion of a legitimate law enforcement action, even though (Fayad) had committed no crime."

"(The) officers’ conduct deliberately damaged (Fayad), in part due to his Arab national origin," the lawsuit said.

Some of the officers named in the lawsuit have been accused of wrongdoing in the past.

Highland Park police Cpl. James McMahon has been sued multiple times; while Highland Park officer Ronald Dupris has a history of problems, including being fired from the Hamtramck Police Department for firing a Taser at his partner after arguing over a soda; and being reprimanded for assaulting a mentally disabled man at a gas station while working for Southgate Police.

Another defendant in the lawsuit, Hamtramck Officer Michael Stout, also has been sued multiple times and accused of unlawfully seizing vehicles. Stout and McMahon were also accused in previous lawsuits of calling Arab-Americans slurs. Two of those suits were settled by Highland Park and Hamtramck for more than $500,000.

Also named in the suit are reserve Hamtramck police officer Andrew Robinson; a confidential Highland Park police informant; and police chiefs Chester Logan of Highland Park, Michael Moore of Ecorse and Anne Moise of Hamtramck.

Phone calls to Logan and Moise were not returned, while Moore insisted: "We had nothing to do with this raid. We weren't even there. My officer (on the task force) was in Florida. We're just named because we were part of COBRA, although because this is pending litigation, I can't discuss this further."

Highland Park spokeswoman Marli Blackman said she needed to speak with the city's legal counsel before discussing the matter, but did not provide a statement Tuesday to The Detroit News.

Fayad claims in the suit that the officers violated the 4th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution by raiding his shop and home without cause.

"This level of lawlessness is outrageous, and can't be tolerated, either by the law or the community," Fayad's attorney William Goodman told The News. 

During the Jan. 8, 2016, raid of Fayad's place of business at 14090 Martinsville in Belleville, the officers busted in "without a warrant and without probable cause," the lawsuit said, adding that cops seized 90 vehicles, transmissions, tires and other auto parts, and other machinery, tools and office equipment.

Later that day, the officers raided Fayad's Dearborn home, arrested him and took him to the Hamtramck police station, the suit said. He was held for three days "without being arraigned, nor informed of the (basis) for his arrest," according to the lawsuit.

"During this time, (Fayad) was given expired, inedible food to eat and his repeated requests for edible, unexpired food were ignored and/or denied," the lawsuit said. "Fayad's) requests for medical attention while detained at the Hamtramck Jail were also ignored."

Three days later, Fayad was released with no charges filed — but, the lawsuit claims, police never returned his seized property. The suit also claims civil forfeiture proceedings were never initiated. 

The lawsuit also claims the Highland Park police informant, whose name is being withheld by The News to protect his identity, stole about $2,000 in cash, and vehicles and other equipment worth $6,000. The informant also allegedly threatened Fayad to drop an earlier lawsuit seeking to get his seized property back.

"Despite repeated requests and attempts to reclaim his wrongfully seized property, (Fayad) remains deprived of his business and personal property, removed and detained by these Defendant Officers without any due process, said deprivation arising pursuant to the customs, policies, and practices of ... Ecorse, Hamtramck and Highland Park," the suit said.

"(The) officers’ acts violated (Fayad's) Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be secure in his person, house, papers, and effects from unreasonable search and seizures," the lawsuit said, adding Fayad lost earnings and business opportunities. The suit seeks unnamed damages.
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN