Local Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Bribery of Ecorse Mayor and Controller
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 18, 2009|
The co-owner of the business Michigan Municipal Services entered a guilty plea as part of the ongoing federal investigation into bribery, fraud, and related criminal offenses in the City of Ecorse, United States Attorney Terrence Berg announced today.
United States Attorney Berg was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit, Michigan Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
SHELDON L. DIVERS, age 39, of Detroit, Michigan entered the plea in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan before Judge Avern Cohn. Under the plea agreement, Divers faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000.00. The plea agreement also requires Divers to make restitution payments to the City of Ecorse and to forfeit two luxury vehicles, a Porsche and a Mercedes, to the government.
The bribery conviction arose from SHELDON DIVERS’ involvement in a scheme to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to Ecorse Mayor Herbert Worthy in connection with a public works contract between the City of Ecorse and Michigan Municipal Services (“MMS”) a company which DIVERS owns with co-defendant Stacey Tarockoff. That public works contract was worth more than $3 million to MMS.
According to information presented to the court at the time of the plea, between November of 2007 and December of 2008, DIVERS arranged for multiple cash payments to be made to Mayor Herbert Worthy. In all, DIVERS and his co-conspirators delivered and agreed to deliver more than $65,000.00 in cash to Mayor Worthy. The money was paid to Herbert Worthy to ensure that Mr. Worthy would use his position as Mayor to approve payment of invoices submitted by MMS to the City of Ecorse. During that same time period, MMS presented numerous invoices to the City of Ecorse which were falsely and fraudulently inflated and included charges for services that had not, in fact, been provided to the City of Ecorse.
As part of the same bribery scheme, between November of 2007 and December of 2008, SHELDON DIVERS and his partner, Stacey Tarockoff, also gave a Lexus automobile and quantities of cash to Erwin Hollenquest, the Controller of the City of Ecorse. The Lexus automobile and the cash were given to Erwin Hollenquest to ensure that Mr. Hollenquest would use his position as Controller for the City of Ecorse to approve and to recommend payment of invoices submitted by MMS to the City of Ecorse. During that same time period, MMS presented numerous invoices to the City of Ecorse which were falsely and fraudulently inflated and included charges for services that had not, in fact, been provided to the City of Ecorse.
United States Attorney Terrence Berg stated, “Knowingly paying a City Official with the intent to cause that official to steer public contracts or city business toward thepayer is nothing but old-fashioned bribery. Citizens are entitled to municipal governance free of such graft and pay-offs.”
"The individuals who pay bribes public officials will be investigated just as aggressively as the public officials who accept them," stated Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena. "Public corruption investigations are a top priority of the FBI and will not be tolerated. This investigation continues to demonstrate the FBI's commitment in investigating public corruption and brings those who betray the public's trust to justice."
A sentencing hearing was set by Judge Avern Cohn for April 5, 2010 at 2 p.m.
This case was investigated by the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce C. Judge and Philip A. Ross.