(WJBK) - The US attorney's office says it seized more than 11 million dollars in dirty money so far in this investigation that a former federal prosecutor says could land everyone involved behind bars for years.
Former metro airport official James Warner could earn a first class trip to prison after being indicted in a major bribery and kickback scheme involving maintenance and repair contracts for runways and parking structures.
From 2010-2014 Warner worked as a field inspector for the Wayne County Airport Authority and Federal investigators say he created false invoices and received more than five million dollars in kickbacks and bribes.
“It really is surprising this much money could be kicked back and the size of these contracts that were given out, it really takes you aback, that someone could take this much money and think this was somehow alright.”
Investigators say one of the contractors, William Pritula received more than 18 million dollars’ worth of contracts with the airport in exchange for offering bribes.
They say Gary Tenaglia, another contractor, bilked the Wayne County Airport Authority of more than a million dollars in the scheme.
Both are now facing charges and are expected to plead guilty.
Wayne State law professor and former Federal Prosecutor Peter Henning says you can bet they're cooperating with investigators and flipped on warner.
“That's typically how a corruption investigation goes. The government starts from the outside in. They go with the bribe payers first because you need that person to say this is how much I gave, then they go through the financial records and see how much the recipient got.”
And one of the more bizarre details of the alleged scheme: investigators say while Warner and Tenaglia talked contracts and kickbacks over dinner-- the airport official wrote five k on a napkin as a proposed kickback figure, showed it to Tenaglia, then ate it.
“Somehow I think people believe that really does get rid of evidence, the problem is everyone remembers it. And you can prove a crime not just with physical evidence but with the witness's recollection and you're going to remember that.
The Wayne County Airport Authority says it could not comment apart from saying that it is cooperating with the investigation.
Warner's lawyer has been contacted, he however has not responded.