Six Detroit Cops Charged in Extortion Scheme

Six Detroit police officers have been charged with extortion after receiving bribes from the owners of automobile collision shops in the latest corruption scandal to hit the department in recent months.

Two officers were indicted Wednesday and four retired officers have pleaded guilty to committing extortion, according to federal court records.

Detroit police Chief James Craig said two additional officers are under internal investigation and could be fired for their parts in the alleged extortion scheme, which the chief said was ongoing for as long as 12 years.

“This has been going on for some time in the department,” Craig said. “There have been previous investigations, which didn’t result in any closure, because there just wasn’t enough evidence. As troubling as these allegations are, I’m happy to see there’s some closure to a longstanding problem.”

The court filings unsealed Wednesday emerged 14 months after The Detroit News revealed federal investigators were probing an elaborate scheme involving collision shops that stripped stolen vehicles and collected thousands of dollars from insurance companies for unnecessary repairs.

The cases appear to be an offshoot of a broader public corruption scandal that has led to charges against 18 people, including towing titan Gasper Fiore and a former deputy police chief, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Until Wednesday, the corruption scandal was focused on at least three fronts: Macomb County politicians pocketing bribes in exchange for approving municipal contracts with Sterling Heights trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services, Fiore’s towing empire, and the Macomb County Public Works office.

The charges, in some cases, were sealed as long as a year ago, a move that likely gave federal agents time to investigate and build a case against more people, said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

No collision shop owners were named in the cases unsealed Wednesday.

“This is a classic case of benign corruption, at least that’s how officers can justify it to themselves,” Henning said. “They’re not being bribed to look the other way but the officers are putting a little cash in their pockets.”

“The vast majority of Detroit Police Officers are courageous, dedicated, superb public servants,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a statement Wednesday. “The charged defendants should have put the people of Detroit first, rather than lining their own pockets.”

Those charged are:

■Officer Deonne Dotson, 45, who was indicted on six extortion counts.

■Officer Charles Wills, 52, who was indicted on four extortion counts. He is accused of pocketing $5,600.

Lawyers for both officers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

■Retired officer James Robertson, 45. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two extortion counts, according to court records unsealed Wednesday. He received $2,000 in fall 2014 from the owner of a Detroit collision shop in exchange for sending an abandoned vehicle to the business for repairs.

His lawyer declined comment.

■Retired officer Jamil Martin, 46. He received $500 from the owner of a Detroit collision shop in 2014 in exchange for sending vehicles to the shop for repairs.

Martin could spend up to 30 months in federal prison, according to his plea deal. His lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

■Retired officer Martin Tutt, 29. Tutt’s plea deal covers two counts of extortion and he has admitted receiving $1,000 from a Detroit collision shop in summer 2014 in exchange for referring an abandoned vehicle to that shop for repairs. He could get sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

■Retired officer Anthony Careathers, 52. He struck a plea deal and admitted pocketing $1,500 from a collision shop owner. He could spend up to 24 months in federal prison, according to his plea deal. His lawyer declined comment.

The extortion charges are 20-year felonies and include $250,000 fines.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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