Whistleblower accused of cheating Detroit Landbank of $5,500

- A contractor accused of cheating the Detroit Landbank turned himself into police Friday, but his attorney is suspicious of why his client is suddenly in the hot seat.

Barry Ellentuck was contracted by the state as a liaison for the city demolition project. Ellentuck has been highly critical and uncomfortable with no-bid contracts that he says add up to at least $11 million.

After Ellentuck spoke up, State Attorney General Bill Schuette is now accusing him of cheating the Detroit Landbank out of $5,500 for demolition work Schuette says Ellentuck never completed.

Ellentuck's attorney, Joseph Lavigne, wonders why his client is suddenly being accused of cheating the Detroit Landbank just a few days after he came out as a whistleblower against the city.

"You've got a party that is involved in litigation already that owes Mr. Ellentuck's company over a million dollars. You have some information that comes out and the next day they're trying to put him in jail. I guess I'll let you draw your own conclusion but it certainly seems suspect," says Ellentuck's attorney, Joseph Lavigne. "Mr. Ellentuck is a man of integrity; he's done great service for the city and is somebody who's been looking out for the city; and this is the last thing you'd expect from somebody who has rendered the kind of service he has to the community."

The Americans with Charlie LeDuff has been on the demolition beat for two months. Days before the newspaper article brought it to court, LeDuff talked about Ellentuck and why he's on the hot seat now.

"We've used [Barry Ellentuck's] emails, the Detroit Free Press yesterday, Reuters, watching the back-and-forth between the city and the state; [Ellentuck] being uncomfortable with these no-bid contracts. So, we get ahold of those and now all of a sudden he's on the hot seat," LeDuff said.

Ellentuck has been highly critical and uncomfortable with no-bid contracts that he says add up to at least $11 million. That $11 million of contracts were between the city and three other contarctors.

"... That there was a meeting prior to the contracts being awarded at which point prices may have been set. I'm not handling those matters; I'm here to defend the criminal charges that are unjustified," Lavigne says.

"If the Attorney General is now going after someone for a minimum of $5,500, take some joy in it I suppose because we're talking tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and cost overruns. And I can confirm right now that there are at least five investigations into the city's roll in this: The U.S. Department of Treasury, HUD [The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], the state, two by the city itself, and the FBI says they neither confirm nor deny any ongoing investigation," LeDuff said.

Much of the money to help fight blight in the city came from the federal government, so they want to know where every dollar is going.

Ellentuck is due back in court later this month.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates. 

 


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