Aug 29 (Reuters) - Seven current or former Detroit building inspectors were charged with taking bribes after a corruption investigation found they ignored illegal wiring and faked inspections, authorities said on Thursday.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette unveiled the criminal charges amid an ongoing wave of corruption in Detroit that has included former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s conviction in March on federal extortion and other charges. Kilpatrick is set to be sentenced on Oct. 10 in Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy protection in July.
The current or former city building inspectors were charged with accepting bribes ranging from $50 to $3,000 offered for commercial or residential properties over a six-year period, Schuette told a news conference.
Each inspector faces at least one 10-year felony count of being a public officer who accepted a bribe and one one-year misdemeanor bribery count, he said.
“These inspectors perpetrated a culture of corruption in Detroit that put the health and the safety of Detroit families at risk. That is unacceptable. That cannot happen,” Schuette said.
The inspectors are accused of ignoring wiring that violated city code, faking documents for inspections that never took place and creating phony architectural drawings, Schuette said. The incidents will be referred back to the city so that the structures where there were phony documents can be inspected to confirm they are safe, he said.
Schuette said the long-running and extensive investigation by the Southeastern Michigan Public Corruption Task Force, which is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is continuing.
When asked whether there was concern that higher-up officials were involved, Schuette replied simply that the investigation was continuing. The city employs a staff of about 85 inspectors, he said.
Charged in the case were Eric F. Miller, 48; John A. Jones, 54; Robert W. Watson, 51; Phillip A. Lockhart, 56; Kenneth Russ, 51; Moreno Taylor, 52; and Delos R. Matthews, 53, according to court documents released by the Attorney General’s Office.
Six of the seven inspectors charged had already turned themselves in to authorities by midday Thursday. They were expected to be arraigned on the state corruption charges on Friday at the 36th District Court, Schuette said. (Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; editing by Andrew Hay)