Federal agents raided a West Bloomfield Township home Tuesday and arrested two Wayne County employees accused of using taxpayer money to buy power equipment worth more than $1.7 million that they later sold for personal profit.
The allegations are contained in an unsealed criminal case against Wayne County Roads Division Manager Kevin Gunn, 64, of West Bloomfield and Foreman John Gibson, 54, of Detroit. The alleged scheme involved 596 generators and other power equipment that was never supplied or used by the county.
The alleged scheme started in January 2019 and lasted until August and involved Gunn soliciting county vendors to buy generators, lawnmowers, chainsaws and backpack blowers from area retailers, according to the court filing.
The case marks the latest federal investigation of corruption within the ranks of government in Metro Detroit. The search comes amid an ongoing FBI investigation of bribery, extortion and fraud within Detroit City Hall and a decade after a scandal led to at least six convictions and the downfall of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.
“Today’s arrests reinforce our dedication to prosecuting corrupt public officials who elevate their own greed over the best interests of the public who rely on the safe administration and maintenance of public infrastructures like roads,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement.
Gunn and Gibson were charged with theft, money laundering and wire fraud and, if convicted, face up to 20 years in federal prison. Gunn and Gibson were freed on $10,000 unsecured bonds following initial appearances in federal court in Detroit.
There was no immediate comment Tuesday from Gunn’s lawyer Richard O’Neill or Gibson’s lawyer Amir Makled.
Once Gunn solicited the vendors, they would bill Wayne County and submit phony invoices for the equipment, which Gunn and Gibson later sold via social media and online, prosecutors alleged.
Early on in the investigation, members of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office obtained a search warrant that helped uncover the alleged scheme and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and his team have cooperated and helped investigators.
“It is unfortunate that a few individuals put their personal gain ahead of the work the county has done over the last seven years to stabilize our fiscal outlook, continue improvements to our infrastructure and provide services to our residents throughout a global pandemic,” Evans said in a statement. “These individuals have undoubtedly put a stain on the fabric of our system.”
The raid included a search of Gunn’s nearly 3,800-square-foot, $684,000 home near Upper Straits Lake and Orchard Lake Country Club in West Bloomfield.
A convoy of unmarked police vehicles arrived at the home at the end of a cul-de-sac at approximately 7 a.m. Tuesday. Law enforcement officers blocked access to the road amid the ongoing search.
The investigation Tuesday is not believed to involve or target high-ranking county officials or appointees in Wayne County government.
In recent years, FBI corruption investigators have focused on Macomb County politics, and secured more than a dozen convictions before returning their focus to Detroit politics.
Since 2008, more than 100 politicians, union bosses, bureaucrats and police officers have been charged with corruption in Michigan’s eastern district, including more than a dozen politicians and contractors in Macomb County.
The raid Tuesday does not appear related to the ongoing FBI investigation of corruption within Detroit’s municipal towing industry. That investigation, dubbed “Operation Northern Hook,” has led to criminal charges against six people and the conviction of former City Councilman André Spivey.
The towing investigation emerged in August when FBI agents raided Detroit City Hall and searched the homes of Councilmembers Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson and their chiefs of staff. None have been charged amid the ongoing investigation.
Gunn has spent more than 30 years working in the county’s bridge maintenance unit, according to a profile posted on the county’s website.
He has filed for bankruptcy five times since 1999, according to public records.
The most recent case was in 2012 when Gunn filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, listing almost $85,000 in debts and an estimated $15,000 in gambling losses. At the time, Gunn was being paid $115,899 a year by the county.
Gibson, meanwhile, works for Gunn and is a 20-year county employee.