(WXYZ) — FBI agents raided the homes of two Detroit City Council members and the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Wednesday.
According to the FBI, the raids happened at the homes of Councilwoman Janee Ayers and Councilman Scott Benson. It's reportedly part of the federal corruption investigation that led to charges against Councilman Andre Spivey last month.
“The citizens of Detroit have a right to a city government that’s free of corruption,” FBI Detroit Special Agent Timothy Waters said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Waters then released the following statement in full:
Earlier today, special agents and task force officers from the public corruption task force executed search warrants at Detroit City Hall and several other locations across Metro Detroit. The warrants were conducted as part of an ongoing public corruption investigation.
As many of you know, the FBI is the primary federal agency responsible for investigating allegations of public corruption. As such, any time an allegation of corruption is brought to our attention, we will collect all available facts and evidence. Once collected, it is our job to ensure they are reviewed in a thorough and impartial manner. The evidence will then be presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office which will ultimately decide whether or not to prosecute.
While the FBI recognizes the public’s right to know what we are doing on its behalf, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of our investigations. As importantly, we have a responsibility to protect the rights of individuals who may not have been charged with any crimes. If charges are ultimately filed, the substance of our investigation will become a matter of public record. Until that time, we will not be providing any additional information on today’s law enforcement activities.
Public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority. Anyone with information relevant to this or any other public corruption matter is encouraged to contact the FBI at 1- 800-CALL-FBI. Tips may also be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.
According to the criminal information filing, Spivey and another person identified as "Public Official A, "corruptly accepted over $35,000 in bribe payments in connection with Spivey's position as a member of the Detroit City Council."
It also alleges that Spivey took a $1,000 cash bribe from an undercover law enforcement agent on Oct. 26, 2018.
Both Ayers and Benson are running for another term on council. Ayers advanced to the general election in her bid for an at-large seat, and Benson ran unopposed in the primary.
The searches come three weeks after Spivey was arraigned in federal court on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery over claims he accepted more than $35,000 to be "influenced and rewarded" for votes.
Earlier this year, former Detroit councilman Gabe Leland was sentenced to 2 1/2 years of probation for a misconduct in office charge.
Leland represented Detroit's 7th district. Prosecutors said Leland accepted $7,500 in cash during his 2017 re-election campaign and free car repairs in exchange for his vote on a land deal.
During the plea hearing, Leland said he accepted the campaign contribution and knew it was illegal to do so.
In 2018, Leland was also indicted on federal bribery charges, but that case will be dismissed under his plea deal.
City Councilmember Raquel Castañeda-López issued the following statement regarding the raids:
"Upon learning about the FBI raiding the homes of Councilmembers Ayers and Benson on the tail of Councilmember Spivey’s indictment, I am simply horrified and heartbroken. Our country affords everyone the fundamental right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and access to justice. Many on this Council, including myself, were elected just as we emerged from bankruptcy and emergency management was lifted. We have come a long way since then. In the spirit of accountability, I am hopeful these federal probes are resolved swiftly. To help foster accountability I will be introducing a new section to Council’s rules regarding training. Shockingly there is currently no section that speaks to training of any sort. My office has already submitted an amendment to require training around cultural awareness and implicit bias. I will be submitting an additional amendment to require annual, mandatory training on the City’s ethics ordinance "to promote an ethical environment within City government, and to ensure the ethical behavior of public servants." (See memo attached.) As council members, we took an oath to lead with integrity and defend the rights of every Detroiter, to protect the public’s trust. And while these recent events are devastating, I still believe in our democracy. I still believe in the power of the people and in the people to guide us forward. Detroiters deserve elected officials who lead with their values: integrity, access, and equity. So to my fellow Detroiters, do not lose hope. This November, we have the opportunity to elect new voices that can restore the public’s trust and integrity to city hall."