6 June 2019
James Warner, 52, a former Detroit Metropolitan Airport official, was convicted Wednesday of receiving more than $5 million worth of bribes. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before reaching the verdict. The jury forewoman said “guilty” 10 times for charges that included bribery, theft and money laundering conspiracies, and obstruction of justice. Warner will be sentenced Oct. 8 by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts.
That is the largest amount of kickbacks in a public corruption case in Metro Detroit history and five times as much money as former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick received during his racketeering conspiracy. Kilpatrick is currently serving a 28-year federal prison sentence.
Warner’s wife Elizabeth Warner played a key role in the scheme involving Tenaglia, according to testimony Thursday. Warner’s wife sent invoices to Tenaglia for marketing and website consulting, Tenaglia testified. Her company received more than $65,000, according to the government. Elizabeth Warner, however, never performed any marketing or website consulting.
A former airport contractor, Envision Electric owner Gary Tenaglia, gave evidence of the alleged bribery scheme. He said he feared losing multi-million-dollar contracts unless he paid bribes that totalled as much as $1 million to Warner, an airport inspector who approved invoices and oversaw maintenance work performed at the airport.
The prosecution presented text messages, secretly recorded phone conversations and undercover video as evidence. Detroit News reported.
Douglas Earles, 60, who owned and operated North Star Water Management and North Star Plumbing, companies which entered into contracts for plumbing installation and maintenance at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, participated in a scheme in which Warner, posing as Earles, would draft and submit fraudulently-inflated invoices for work which Earles did not perform at the airport. Upon payment by the airport to Earles, Earles would kickback roughly 40 per cent of the profits to Warner. Earles pleaded guilty to the offences.
Warner was also engaged in a similar scam with William Pritula, who pleaded guilty last July to paying over $5 million in kickbacks to Warner for pavement and hydrant repairs and maintenance at the airport. Detroit News reported. U.S. Attorneys Eastern District of Michigan reported in its website.