DETROIT (WXYZ) - Wayne County’s Chief Information Officer has turned himself in to Federal Court after being charged with extortion, bribery and obstruction of justice.
Tahir Kazmi has been charged with extortion and obstruction of justice – and one of his subordinates is also accused of obstructing the federal probe.
He is expected to appear in court on the charges at 1:00 p.m.
The FBI has had Tahir Kazmi under surveillance since late January. Last week, agents executed a search warrant at his home in Rochester Hills. And now Wayne County’s former Chief Information Officer has been charged with extortion, bribery, and obstruction of justice. Kazmi’s subordinate in the county’s IT department, 33 year old Zayd Alleban, is also facing obstruction of justice charges.
Shortly before U. S. Attorney Barbara McQuade released this complaint that details the alleged crimes– the 52 year old Kazmi resigned from the county. FBI agents say as part of their probe into possible corruption in Wayne County, they learned both men had been pressuring a county contractor to lie to the feds.
Agents accuse Kazmi of demanding that the vendor purchase expensive trips to Hawaii, Turkey, and Florida, as well as cell phones for Kazmi’s children. The county contractor describes Kazmi as threatening, and says they gave Kazmi more than $80,000 in cash. Agents say Kazmi also demanded that the vendor give Kazmi’s brother in law 49% of the contractor’s company.
It seems, the federal probe picked up steam after the 7 Action News Investigators broke the news that former Wayne County Economic Development Chief Turkia Mullin was given $200,000 severance when she resigned.
The complaint appears to reference Kazmi’s meeting with former Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder – that our undercover cameras caught back in October. That day, Elder and Kazmi met in Elder’s county SUV – before Elder secretly met with Mullin.
According to the complaint, when Kazmi found out he was a target of the probe – he tried to obstruct the investigation by asking the contractor to call the trips and cash loans, and creating fake receipts.
The feds say Zayd Alleban was also involved in trying to convince the vendor that the gifts were loans and handing over cash so the contractor would Kazmi paid him back.
The FBI recorded many of those conversations. Former Detroit FBI Asst Special Agent in Charge William Kowalski says with that kind of pressure being placed on a witness – agents had to move fast.
“You don’t often see obstruction of justice charges brought against an individual in an ongoing investigation like that. Clearly as the complaint very specifically sets out, this individual went to great lengths, allegedly, to cover his tracks and to make sure his nefarious, allegedly nefarious activities were hidden from view. And that all being captured by the FBI as part of the continuing investigation is crucial and speaks to their good work,” said Kowalski.
The complaint also alleges that an FBI informant expressed concern that Kazmi was trying to wipe clean information on county hard drives, so the information could not be shared with reporters making public records requests.
Agents say in late October – weeks after Mullin had left to run the airport -- Kazmi gave the informant what appears to be Mullin’s county-issued laptop. According to the complaint, even though county lawyers were searching for the laptop – Kazmi never told anyone he had it. The informant told agents, they “believed… the hard drive, or at least the back [of the computer] protecting the drive, had been removed and replaced.
“If I’m Turkia Mullin, I’m certainly reading this with great interest. If I’m frankly Robert Ficano or many of the defense counsels within the city of Detroit, I’m reading this with great interest and then figuring out what my next step might be,” said Kowalski.
Action News has contacted both Kazmi and Alleban’s attorney – so far, no comment from either of them about these charges.
In a press release, Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena said, “…it’s imperative that anyone
With knowledge of potential illegal activity within Wayne Co. government come forward immediately… As always, assistance and cooperation from citizens and employees of Wayne Co. remains a key part of the investigation.”
A spokeswoman from the United States Attorney’s office says both men will be allowed to turn themselves in.
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano responded to the charges Wednesday. He says, "We just learned of them late this afternoon and if these allegations are true it is outrageous and we should hold these people, these two individuals, accountable, if the allegation are true at this point."
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