An elected Trustee of Macomb Township was arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today based on a criminal complaint charging him with demanding and taking bribes in exchange for his vote and official assistance on a municipal contract, United States Attorney Barbara McQuade announced.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by FBI Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios and Manny J. Muriel, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Detroit Field Office.
Clifford Freitas, 43, of Macomb Township, is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, including demanding and accepting money in exchange for official acts as a Trustee. Freitas’ arrest is another part of an ongoing and long-running investigation into systemic corruption in multiple municipalities in southeast Michigan, primarily Macomb County. The investigation has employed telephone wiretaps, consensual audio and video recordings by cooperative individuals, undercover operations, physical surveillance, telephone tracking warrants, and subpoenas of financial records and other documents.
The complaint charges that Freitas demanded and accepted money from a municipal vendor in exchange for using his official position as a Trustee to get the vendor a municipal contract and to secure favorable terms for the company. In July 2015, Macomb Township put out a request for proposal for a municipal contract. Soon thereafter, Freitas approached a representative of a prospective vendor, and Freitas demanded money in return for Freitas’ support as a Trustee. Freitas agreed to accept $7,500 from the vendor in return for his assistance in getting the contract. Through his position as a Trustee, Freitas obtained sensitive bid information on the municipal contract in order to help the vendor, telling the vendor what bid was needed to beat out competing contractors. After the vendor was awarded the contract by Macomb Township, Freitas demanded an additional $35,000 from the company representative for his additional assistance as a public official relating to the contract. In May 2016, Freitas accepted $2,000 in cash from an undercover agent of the FBI, with the payment being video recorded.
“Bribery in municipal contracting undermines clean and effective government and erodes public trust,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.
“The citizens of Michigan must be able to trust that government officials will perform their duties in the best interests of the communities they serve,” said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of investigation. “Today’s arrest is another unfortunate reminder that some public officials have lost sight of that obligation choosing instead to utilize their positions of authority to serve their own interests. The Detroit FBI along with its partners assigned to the Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force remain committed to investigating those who criminally violate their oaths of office. I would encourage anyone who has information about corrupt activity in Macomb County or any other community in Michigan to contact the Detroit FBI Public Corruption tip line at 313-965-2222.”
This investigation is being conducted by the Macomb Resident Agency of the FBI and the FBI Detroit Area Corruption Task Force, a multiagency task force led by the FBI Detroit Division and comprised of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Michigan State Police, Michigan Attorney General’s Office, and several other local and federal law enforcement agencies. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys R. Michael Bullotta and David A. Gardey.
Freitas will be in federal court this afternoon at 1pm for his initial appearance.
Upon conviction for a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666, federal program bribery, Freitas faces a maximum of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.