Did local developer with close county ties have inside track to federal money?

(WXYZ) DETROIT - On a Friday night in September in Downtown Detroit, forty thousand fans packed the stands to watch the Tigers take on the Cleveland Indians. But few had a seat as good as the fans sitting in Wayne County's suite.  Ron Boji has been a guest many times.  His brother-in law is Asst. Wayne County Executive Nader Fakhouri.

Boji is a developer with real estate projects far and wide.  He and his family have been some of Robert Ficano's most reliable campaign contributors.  Not long ago, Boji held a birthday party fundraiser for Ficano at his sprawling Orchard Lake home.

Boji's name surfaced in the widening Wayne County scandal back in October, when the FBI named his company, The Boji Group, in a federal subpoena.  At issue tonight: did his relationship with Ficano's office help land his company federal money for a big development in Wayne County? And did Fakhouri stand to benefit from the deal?

Boji used that federal money to build the Inkster Marketplace, a sprawling two-block, four-building development that couldn't have materialized had it not been for federal funds provided by Wayne County.  It passed along government grants totaling almost $2 million that ultimately went to Boji's company. And the county official who handed over the money?  Fmr. Economic Development Chief Turkia Mullin.

Last summer, the Wayne County Building Authority bought one of those buildings from Ron Boji, paying about $7 million. What building authority officials didn't know when they bought it?  Boji's brother-in-law, the assistant county executive, had a 20% stake in the Inkster development.  It's an investment he only disclosed in October, a month after we told Ron Boji we were looking into his work with the county.

But that's just part of this story, and this development project.  A few hundred feet down the street, Boji was also working on a new headquarters for the local YWCA.  

For that building to be developed, the Y first needed to sell its old headquarters to the city of Inkster for its new police headquarters.  But they needed to find an appraiser, first. According to a memo written by the then director of the YWCA, Ron Boji recommended one person: Jumana Judeh.  She's a Dearborn based commercial real estate appraiser and she just happens to be County Executive Robert Ficano's girlfriend.

She received about $2,000 for her appraisal.  And not long after, the City of Inkster purchased the old YWCA.  Construction on their new headquarters is still ongoing, but it stopped for several months when the Y ran out of money. It started up again in the summer after the county awarded the Y another $300,000 in federal money that would go to Boji.  Once again, Turkia Mullin signed off on the money.  

Ron Boji denies having the inside-track to any federal money awarded by Wayne County.  We were scheduled to meet with Boji today at 3 o'clock about this story, but late yesterday his spokesman abruptly cancelled our interview.

As for Boji's access to the county's Comerica Park suite, Ficano spokeswoman Brooke Blackwell says it's not a sign of favoritism.  

If you have a tip for the Action News Investigative Team, contact us at tips@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.
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