A former Michigan town supervisor will serve three years in prison for accepting a $10,000 bribe involving an asbestos-removal and demolition contract at an abandoned theater.
William Morgan, the former supervisor of Royal Oak Township, a suburb of Detroit, was sentenced Thursday (Aug. 2) in federal court after pleading guilty to charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), violate the Clean Air Act’s asbestos requirements, and commit bribery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release.
Morgan’s criminal conduct involved the awarding of a contract and distribution of federal funds through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), a federal program intended to improve blighted areas by removing dilapidated buildings.
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|The former Royal Oak Township, MI, town supervisor accepted a $10,000 bribe involving an asbestos-removal contract at an abandoned theater in the Detroit suburb.|
In addition to being the town supervisor, Morgan was also Royal Oak’s coordinator for the federal program.
Authorities said that before the HUD contract was awarded, Morgan received a $10,000 bribe from Sureguard Inc., of Roseville, MI, and PBM Services LLC, of Redford Township, MI. The companies had submitted a bid for the demolition and asbestos removal of an abandoned theater on Eight Mile Road.
In return for the bribe, Morgan attempted to steer the contract to Sureguard/PBM, authorities said. However, Royal Oak’s Board of Trustees awarded the contract to another company, which had submitted a lower bid.
Morgan also admitted that he then conspired with the owner of the company that had been awarded the contract and others to submit a false report regarding the asbestos to be abated in the theater, so that they could submit a false change order to obtain about $170,000 in federal funds.
During the demolition process, Morgan asked for and received cash payments of $500 and $1,000 from the owner of the company that had won the contract, officials said.
He received these payments, thinking that they were given in return for his participation in the fraudulent scheme, officials said. Meanwhile, however, the owner had been cooperating with the FBI.
‘Endangers Community Health’
“It is particularly disturbing when an official not only takes bribes but also endangers community health and the environment by allowing the bribes to influence abatement decisions,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials.
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The sentence shows that government officials who attempt to line their pockets rather than carry out their responsibilities honestly will be prosecuted to the full extent to the law,” said Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan.
One of Morgan’s co-conspirators, Terrance Parker, previously received a 21-month sentence. Two other co-conspirators, Kendrick Covington and Marcus Brown, have yet to be sentenced.
The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI, HUD’s Office of the Inspector General, and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.