An attorney, an elected official, and a businessman collaborated in an absurd corruption plot involving the payment of an elected official’s divorce settlement. However, an FBI inquiry foiled their plans.
In 2014, agents opened a case after receiving a tip. North of Detroit, reputable sources have documented widespread corruption in the waste, construction, and engineering industries. There, public figure Dean Reynolds was caught extorting people and selling his votes, and the case began.
“We were able to intercept him accepting and requesting bribes in real time,” stated Special Agent Robert Beeckman of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, who investigated this case. Reynolds was also observed by agents taking a cash delivery. As a local lawmaker in the tenth largest city in Michigan, Reynolds utilized his contacts for financial benefit.
Reynolds ensured that he had links in the waste sector, one of the municipality’s largest expenses. Chuck Rizzo, president of Rizzo Environmental Services, Inc., was the recipient of multiple phone calls. In Southeast Michigan, Rizzo’s company had one of the largest and most profitable waste enterprises. Reynolds was offered bribes to secure favorable contracts. He emphasized the importance of obtaining Reynold’s vote on a $18 million deal.
Rizzo covered Reynolds’ divorce fees in exchange for the lucrative deal.
Rizzo requested that his attorney Jay A. Schwartz provide a number of services, including guidance on how to commit bribery and divorce representation for Reynolds. Schwartz agreed. A subpoena of his billing software proved that free legal services totaling $40,000 were rendered.
Reynolds battled a custody fight that necessitated a psychological evaluation as the divorce progressed. Another wiretap captured Schwartz offering that a third party may pay for it; however, this third party was required to possess a vital skill.
“[Schwartz] discussed finding a third party who could serve as a credible witness if ever questioned under oath regarding the source of the funds. Beeckman stated, “You have an attorney, a court officer, suggesting a bribery scheme with the intent of perjury, if necessary, and disguising it from a judge.” Schwartz duped a family friend who was unaware of the ruse.
Schwartz was given a prison term of 27 months and a fine of $250,000. In 2018, Rizzo was given a 66-month sentence. Reynolds was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2019. In total, 22 individuals were charged in connection with the conspiracy.
Because systematic corruption can generate a cascade effect that leads to general mistrust of authority, the FBI emphasizes these cases.
“There are locations on earth that have given up. “Their government structures have utterly failed due to the extent of their corruption,” stated Beeckman. “There, the populace lacks confidence in the nation’s leaders. This country is not there, and we have no intention of getting there.
Bribery is a federal crime. If you suspect it, contact the FBI.
A typical concern is that if you submit a tip, you will be the sole source of a public official’s investigation. This is incorrect. Beeckman confirmed that a public corruption investigation cannot be initiated on the basis of a single source.
“No detail is insignificant. You could be the person who provides the final piece of knowledge we need to make sense of everything,” he said.
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