Six Detroit police officers have been charged with extortion, accused of pocketing bribes from collision shops in exchange for steering stolen and abandoned vehicles their way, the U.S. Attorney's office announced Wednesday.
Four of the accused officers, however, have already pleaded guilty in the case after cutting deals that were kept secret for months, according to federal prosecutors and newly unsealed court documents.
The other two officers were indicted today. They are:
- Deonne Dotson, 45, a current DPD officer who was indicted on six counts of extortion;
- Charles Wills, 52, also a current DPD officer, who was indicted on four counts of extortion.
The other four defendants are retired police officers. They are:
- Jamil Martin, 46, who pleaded guilty to extortion in May, admitting he pocketed a $500 cash bribe in 2014 from a collision shop owner in exchagne for referring an abandoned vehicle to that shop for repairs. According to his plea deal, Martin used his job as a police officer to locate abandoned vehicles, arrange for them to be towed and talked with the cars' owners regarding where they could send their car for repairs. Under the terms of his plea deal, he faces 24-30 months in prison.
- James Robertson, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of extortion in February, admitting he accepted two, $1,000 bribes in exchange for referring abandoned vehicles to collision shops. His sentencing guideline range is 24-30 months.
- Martin Tutt, 29, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of extortion, admitting he accepted two, $500 cash bribes from collision shops for referring them customers who owned bandoned vehicles. His sentencing guideline range is 24-30 months.
- Anthony Careathers, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of extortion in June, admitting he accepted a $1,500 cash bribe from an auto collision shop in exchange for referring an abandoned vehicle to the shop for repairs. His sentencing guidelines are 18-24 months.
“The charged defendants should have put the people of Detroit first, rather than lining their own pockets," Acting U.S. Attorney Dan Lemisch said in a statement.
Added Detroit Police Chief James Craig: " While these allegations are troubling, we are relieved that this is bringing closure to a long standing issue that has plague this department."
Attorneys for the six accused officers were not readily available for comment.
Dotson will be arraigned in U.S. District Court at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The arraignment date for Officer Wills is yet to be determined.
If convicted, Dotson and Wills each face up to 20 years in prison on each extortion charge.
The charges come more than a year after six Detroit police officers were suspended amid a federal investigation of towing practices involving stolen cars. It is not known if the six charged officers are the ones who were suspended.
The charges also appear to be part of a broader public corruption probe that has so far triggered charges against 18 individuals, including towing titan Gasper Fiore.
Fiore is accused of — among other things — paying bribes to public officials for help in securing towing contracts in their municipalities.
According to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, there are 20-plus companies authorized to handle towing in areas of the city and they are supposed to be tapped to tow vehicles based on a rotation. Last summer, according to the commission, allegations of improper conduct related to towing were steered to the department’s internal affairs.