Air­port con­trac­tor charged with fraud

Rochester mil­lion­aire with check­ered past ex­pected to plead guilty to con­spir­acy

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY ROBERT SNELL The Detroit News

Detroit — Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors charged a Detroit Metropoli­tan Air­port con­trac­tor Mon­day in a con­spir­acy that de­frauded the Wayne County Air­port Au­thor­ity out of $1.5 mil­lion, the first pub­lic in­di­ca­tion of a broader cor­rup­tion con­spir­acy.

Gary Te­naglia, 64, of Rochester was charged with wire fraud con­spir­acy and is ex­pected to plead guilty. The court fil­ing de­scribes a year-long con­spir­acy in­volv­ing an air­port that has been a re­cur­ring fig­ure in area cor­rup­tion scan­dals and a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man with a check­ered past who gained no­to­ri­ety two years ago by buy­ing the land­mark Big Buck Brew­ery build­ing in Auburn Hills.

The con­spir­acy in­volves Te­naglia’s firm, En­vi­sion En­gi­neer­ing & Main­te­nance, and a $1.5 mil­lion con­tract to re­move snow and ice from the Blue Deck park­ing struc­ture at the air­port. Ac­cord­ing to court records, Te­naglia con­spired with at least two other peo­ple who are not named in the court fil­ing.

En­vi­sion charged the Wayne County Air­port Au­thor­ity ap­prox­i­mately $1.5 mil­lion to re­move snow and ice from the park­ing struc­ture from May 2011 through June 2014. An in­ter­nal au­dit re­vealed Te­naglia fraud­u­lently charged the au­thor­ity for ap­ply­ing a de­ic­ing sub­stance that was never ap­plied, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral

court records.

Te­naglia’s lawyer, Mark Kriger, de­clined com­ment Mon­day.

A Wayne County Air­port Au­thor­ity spokes­woman said the agency is co­op­er­at­ing with the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“How­ever, we can­not com­ment fur­ther at this time given the pend­ing pro­ceed­ings,” spokes­woman Erica Don­er­son wrote in an email.

Te­naglia’s com­pany bought Big Buck Brew­ery two years ago, sold the giant beer bot­tle vis­i­ble from along­side south­bound I-75 and con­verted the cav­ernous build­ing into a called HUB Sta­dium.

His past in­cludes a 2009 mis­de­meanor con­vic­tion af­ter be­ing ac­cused of steal­ing $7,811 in elec­tric­ity to power his $1.6 mil­lion man­sion in Wash­ing­ton Town­ship. His crim­i­nal con­vic­tion and $15,000 fine was chron­i­cled in the Wall Street Jour­nal.

Te­naglia now lives in a $5 mil­lion man­sion in Rochester. He re­cently listed the 9,150square-foot home for sale. The French coun­try manor es­tate fea­tures a he­li­pad, six bed­rooms and eight bath­rooms.

Pros­e­cu­tors are eye­ing Te­naglia’s as­sets. The crim­i­nal charge filed Mon­day in­cludes a for­fei­ture pro­vi­sion that would let pros­e­cu­tors seize as­sets linked to pro­ceeds from the al­leged con­spir­acy.

The case against Te­naglia is un­re­lated to a sep­a­rate cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing Ma­comb County politi­cians that has since spread to Detroit.

The air­port au­thor­ity man­ages and op­er­ates Detroit Metro and Wil­low Run air­ports. The au­thor­ity is man­aged by a seven-mem­ber board, to which the county ex­ec­u­tive ap­points four mem­bers, two are ap­pointed by Gov. Rick Sny­der and one by the county com­mis­sion.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion has not been con­tacted as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and doesn’t ex­pect to be,” Wayne County spokesman Jim Martinez said in a state­ment. “How­ever, we would fully co­op­er­ate if con­tacted. We trust all ap­pointed to the board would do the same.”

The air­port han­dled al­most 35 mil­lion pas­sen­gers last year — a nearly 1 per­cent in­crease from the year prior — and 477 mil­lion pounds of cargo, up 5.2 per­cent from a year ear­lier. Its bud­get last fis­cal year was $362.5 mil­lion.

“There’s a large pot of money, and given the vol­ume of pas­sen­gers com­ing through, it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that peo­ple try to grab a slice of the pie, law­fully or un­law­fully,” said Peter Hen­ning, a Wayne State Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor and for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

The air­port has pe­ri­od­i­cally been em­broiled in cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Air­port au­thor­ity CEO Turkia Mullin, a for­mer Wayne County eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment chief, was fired in 2011 af­ter the FBI served sub­poe­nas de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion about a non­profit she ran and deals she en­gi­neered for the county.

Mullin was never charged with a crime.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion co­in­cided with a probe of thenWayne County Ex­ec­u­tive Robert Fi­cano, who lost re-elec­tion in Au­gust 2014.

The FBI spent three years in­ves­ti­gat­ing county gov­ern­ment be­fore de­clin­ing to pur­sue crim­i­nal charges against Fi­cano and two for­mer high­rank­ing deputies.

In 2004, for­mer top air­port of­fi­cial Wil­bourne Kel­ley III and his wife, Bar­bara, were con­victed of ac­cept­ing cash, home im­prove­ments and other gifts from for­mer air­port con­trac­tor Frank Val­lecorsa. They were sen­tenced to 44 months and 41 months in prison, re­spec­tively.

Kel­ley was the only of­fi­cial sent to prison as a re­sult of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Wayne County gov­ern­ment un­der Ed­ward H. McNa­mara, the late po­lit­i­cal boss.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.