Fmr. Ficano aide Tahir Kazmi pleads guilty to accepting $70k in cash, trips from vendor

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Another top aide to Robert Ficano has pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe – and he's looking at years behind bars.  The question now is – who else will he bring down as he cooperates with the feds?

This is the third guilty plea so far in the Wayne County Corruption probe – and it's the biggest one yet.

"Mr. Kazmi, why did you decide to plead guilty?  Are you going to be testifying against your former co-workers," 7 Action News Investigator asked Tahir Kazmi as he walked into federal court with his lawyer Thursday.

Kazmi isn't talking to 7 Action News, but he's about to say a lot to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Kazmi pleaded guilty today to accepting bribes. The U. S. Attorney says the former Chief of Wayne County's Information Technology Department corruptly accepted cash, trips, and gifts that total about $70,000 from a county contractor.

The 49 year old Rochester Hills man stood in front of the federal judge and admitted that he was friendly with Phillip Shisha, the owner of Strategic Business Partners.  SBP received multi-million dollar contracts from Wayne County.  So far, Shisha is not returning our calls for comment.

Kazmi told the judge, "I favored him in a way where there were better chances for him to get those contracts."

Kazmi was once in County Executive Robert Ficano's inner circle – in one of the highest positions in county government.  In fact, our cameras caught Kazmi meeting with former Deputy County Executive Azzam Elder in Elder's car at the height of the severance scandal last fall.

Now as part of his guilty plea, Kazmi has to cooperate with the FBI, and he has agreed to testify.  As part of the deal, Kazmi also has forfeited more than $35,000 in cash to feds.

Right now he's facing between 57 and 71 months (about 5 years) in federal prison, but if he provides "substantial assistance" to the feds, prosecutors will recommend that he spend less time behind bars.

Sources tell 7 Action News that Kazmi's testimony could be a major coup for the corruption probe – depending on what he can tell federal agents about what really went on behind the scenes in the Guardian building.

"Do you have information on Bob Ficano," Catallo asked Kazmi as he left court after the guilty plea.

In fact, on Thursday, Ficano sent two of his aides to federal court – just to listen to what Kazmi told the judge.

Kwame Finn and another man told Catallo, they were to report back to Ficano as soon as the hearing was over, because "the county is interested in what happens today."

"Mr. Kazmi violated the trust of the public and the entire administration, scheming in the shadows to enrich himself.  As we continue to cooperate with the federal investigation, this is an important step forward as we move towards completion of the process," Ficano said in a written statement.

Kazmi is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

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