JULY 16, 2009
While a corrupt but well-connected Detroit Councilwoman escapes justice with a plea deal, her top aide could go to prison for decades for running a massive bribery scheme on her behalf.
Councilwoman Monica Conyers cut a deal last month with federal prosecutors and got off easy for accepting bribes from numerous city contractors over the years. Last month Conyers, whose husband chairs the House Judiciary Committee, pleaded guilty to a single felony count for taking bribes from a developer to change her vote on a major city contract.
It turns out that the councilwoman masterminded numerous other bribery schemes, but the plea deal will shield her from any further charges. Instead, her longtime former aide (Sam Riddle) will take the big hit—multiple charges of bribery, extortion, mail fraud and making false statements—though Conyers actively participated in every turn of the conspiracies.
Conyers was deeply involved in the shakedown of various city contractors but will never pay for the crimes though she’s prominently mentioned in Riddle’s indictment, which also charges a former state legislator. It says that the veteran Democratic lawmaker extorted money from companies involved in at least four city deals and that she told her trusted aide, “You better get my loot, that’s all I know,” from a restaurant owner.
Conyers and Riddle also extorted $20,000 from a technology company seeking a multi million-dollar investment from the city’s retirement system, another $20,000 from a local firm with business before the City Council and $25,000 from as strip club seeking a license modification from the city.
Riddle could go to jail for 20 years but Conyers only faces a maximum of five. For months Conyers steadfastly maintained her innocence even after the FBI revealed that it had electronic surveillance evidence of her taking bribes. Her story changed when one of the developers that bribed her pleaded guilty last month to paying Conyers more than $6,000, using a courier on four separate occasions to deliver the cash.
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