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Guilty of bribery and extortion, ex-public employees still collect public pensions

Law meant to forfeit convicts’ pensions seldom used, investigation finds
Posted at 4:06 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 18:25:09-05

(WXYZ) — Detroit Police officer Michael Mosley was supposed to catch drug dealers. But for a price, he let them go.

“You can call it cops on the take, bribery,” Chief James Craig said back in 2019. “It’s criminal.”

Mosley admitted to taking a $15,000 bribe from a drug trafficker caught with heroin and cocaine. In exchange for the money, he agreed not to pursue criminal charges.

After he was indicted and pleaded guilty, Mosley gave up his badge and his gun and today awaits sentencing. But he never gave up his public pension.

In 2017, a law was passed that attempted to make forfeiture of a crooked public employee’s pension mandatory, or at least easier to pursue. But a 7 Action News investigation reveals it has seldom been used, and Michigan’s Attorney General was not even familiar with it.

Former Detroit Police officers James Robertson, Jamil Martin and Anthony Careathers were charged by prosecutors when it was revealed that each was extorting collision shop owners on the job.

All three pleaded guilty to extortion, spent time in prison and collected their pension checks, courtesy of Detroit taxpayers.

Despite repeated requests, the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System refused to supply the value of each former officer’s monthly pension, claiming it was exempt from public disclosure.

Mosley's attorney Robert Morgan said his client's pension is about $200 a month.

In Macomb County, former Macomb Twp. Trustee Dino Bucci was part of a scheme the feds say stretched back nearly a decade.

“He was shaking down builders and developers that needed approvals for township permits,” said Macomb Twp. Treasurer Leon Drolet.

Hit with 18 charges while he was a deputy in Macomb’s Department of Public Works, Bucci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion, pocketing $96,000 in bribes.

Today, while he awaits sentencing, Bucci receives a pension of $3,922 a month, or $47,064 a year.

“A pension is a reward for years of doing hard work,” Drolet said. “Mr. Bucci should not be getting any sort of a pension.”

Under that 2017 state law, a judge is supposed to automatically forfeit a public employee's pension if they're convicted of a felony like bribery. But in federal cases, there’s no mechanism for judges to do so.

As a backup, the law allows for the attorney general to forfeit the pension, but Attorney General Dana Nessel says she's never used the law because, until receiving questions from 7 Action News, she had not heard of it.

“Until you brought this to my attention, it wasn’t something that I had thought of,” Nessel said. “And that’s on me as an elected official. I should be familiar with the law, I should know it inside and out.”

But Nessel says that even if she was aware of the law, she’s not sure she should be pursuing the pensions of crooked county or city employees that someone else is prosecuting.

“If they’re not a state employee and the money really belongs to somebody else beside the State of Michigan—I represent the State of Michigan, but I don’t represent Macomb County,” she said.

While Bucci has pleaded guilty, he still awaits sentencing. If Nessel does not move to forfeit his pension at that point, Macomb County’s prosecutor could do so.

Former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider prosecuted many of the cases in question. After the change in administrations, Schneider left his position as U.S. Attorney and now works for the Honigman law firm in Detroit.

He says if a judge doesn’t forfeit a felon’s pension, the Attorney General should, regardless of whether the individuals work for the city, county or state.

“It makes total sense that the attorney general could act in his or her power to take that pension away,” Schneider said.

“We should have people in these offices looking to find out, when did that conviction get entered? And immediately somebody at the state attorney general’s office should be on it and give it back to the taxpayers.”

Nessel says she’s studying the law further and may even have reason to use it soon.

Her office recently charged former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith with felonies that include racketeering and embezzlement. Smith says he’s not guilty and is already collecting his pension of $7,594 every month.

“I think what your investigation has highlighted is the lack of clarity and awareness of this entire pension issue,” Drolet said. When you make a decision to steal, when you make a decision to disrespect and abuse the citizens…you forfeit any sense of what anybody owes you back.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466