Man accused of filling Detroit demo sites with contaminated dirt, billing city for $1+ million

A Howell man is accused of billing the City of Detroit for backfill dirt while he used dirt from contaminated sites at demolished properties.

David MacDonald, 50, worked for Den-Man, a company contracted to lead Detroit's demolition program, in 2017. Attorney General Dana Nessel said his job included finding backfill for the Den-Man demolition sites. This backfill needed to be from approved sources. 

Authorities said MacDonald repeatedly claimed to have paid for dirt used at these sites he had obtained at no cost, lied about the source of the dirt, and billed the Detroit Land Bank Authority for fictitious sums. 

Den-Man received $1,148,513.61 for reimbursement for backfill material without actually incurring those costs. 

Because the dirt used was contaminated, the sites now must be tested for their environmental quality. The Detroit Land Bank Authority has agreed to repay $1 million due to monitoring issues in the program.

"These crimes, a scam against the people of Detroit and abuse of public funds, amount to public harm for private greed," Nessel said. "We have a responsibility to protect public funds from abuse, and to protect already vulnerable neighborhoods from environmental attacks. I am grateful to the SIGTARP (Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program) team for their work with our office."

MacDonald is charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and 11 counts of false pretenses. 

"I would like to recognize the outstanding work of the Michigan Department of Attorney General, City of Detroit Office of the Inspector General, as well as the SIGTARP investigative team. This investigation stems from the reviews of the Detroit HHF, to ensure that backfill dirt used by contractors complies with the program requirements," said Melissa Bruce, SIGTARP Principal Deputy Inspector General. "The requirements by contractors to use safe and approved backfill materials and substantiate backfill costs are critical to ensuring TARP funds are properly spent for the public’s safety and program requirements in Detroit."