FBI probe spreads to Wayne County Sheriff's tether contract

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Sheriff Benny Napoleon is the front-runner to be Detroit's next mayor and was probably hoping that this would be a quiet summer.  Well that all but went out the window when he learned the feds wide-ranging probe into Wayne County now includes his office.

7 Action News has confirmed that the FBI is looking into a lucrative tether contract run out of Napoleon's department.  Tether are used to monitor jail inmates who, often times, the county has no room to house.  The contract once belonged to only one vendor: Actron of Lincoln Park. But after taking office, Napoleon's team put the contract up for bid, splitting it up between four contractors and saving the county money. 

Actron president Ben Aycock spoke to us by phone today from Switzerland. He says part of the reason his company is receiving less work is because he refused to hire the wife of Napoleon's chief of staff, Michael Turner.

"Turner asked me if I had any job openings, his wife was looking for a job," Aycock said.

"I said, ‘No, I really don't think so.' And I said, ‘What's she qualified to do?'  He said, basically: ‘I didn't intend on her working . I'm looking for a $75,000, $80,000 a year job where she doesn't have to do a lot.' I said: ‘I don't have any of those jobs.'"

The company who Aycock says is receiving most of the county work is called Michigan Tether.  It's owned, in part, by businessman Joe Lentine.  He also has ownership in a company called Union Circle…who Chief of Staff Michael Turner's wife currently works for.

Late today, Turner called the allegations "bold face lies."

"That conversation never took place," Turner said.

"This investigation will bear out he's lying, and it will bear out that he's been gouging the county in the beginning."

Sheriff Naploeon's office issued this statement today, saying allegations of pay-to-play are being fueled purely by politics. Today by phone, he said he's not worried one bit by a federal probe.

"The feds are investigating it. I'm confident at the end of the day that everyone will be clear, there's no improper relationship, and that nothing was done.  I'm confident of that," Napoleon said.

If you have a tip for Investigator Ross Jones, contact him at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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