Jurors watched video Friday of an FBI agent smuggling $90,000 through airport security in a test aimed at combating defense claims about a Kilpatrick bagman.
The video was a highlight of testimony Friday, which also featured racially charged text messages sent between contractor Bobby Ferguson and his co-defendant in the City Hall corruption trial, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Also Friday, an IRS agent detailed the autopsy she performed on Bernard Kilpatrick’s finances in conjunction with the City Hall corruption probe.
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Bobby Ferguson used racial terms to complain about a white-owned construction company that he later allegedly extorted $5 million from, according to text messages shown to jurors Friday.
The racial terms were contained in text messages Ferguson sent to his pal Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in fall 2002 regarding construction company Walbridge Aldinger.
Ferguson sent a text message to Kilpatrick on Sept. 11, 2002, asking the mayor to meet with Walbridge CEO John Rakolta Jr., a national finance co-chair for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Walbridge officials had complained about having difficulty getting access to Kilpatrick.
“We can use this to our advantage,” Ferguson texted.
Kilpatrick agreed to the meeting.
The next month, Ferguson sent Kilpatrick another text.
“Walbridge is not playing ball black man,” Ferguson texted the mayor on Oct. 21, 2002. “These white folks need to be made believers that they are not in control.”
“Will call later,” Kilpatrick texted.
Walbridge eventually partnered with Ferguson on a Detroit water project called Baby Creek.
According to prosecutors, Ferguson, former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado extorted Walbridge out of $5 million in work for Ferguson’s company.
From the City Hall corruption indictment:
“FERGUSON obtained this work by exploiting (Walbridge’s) fear that FERGUSON would use his relationship with KWAME KILPATRICK and other members of the Mayor’s Office to adversely impact (Walbridge’s) chances of winning the contract if they did not do so.”
An FBI agent who smuggled $90,000 through airport security during a test wasn’t bulging like the “Michelin Man,” as defense lawyers claimed, according to a videotape of the test.
Questions about the test led to an insulting exchange between ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer and an airport security official.
Jurors saw a video of FBI Agent Joseph Jensen stuffing stacks of cash down his pants before walking through a metal detector at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The test was staged last fall after defense lawyers claimed alleged bagman Mahlon Clift, who delivered money to Kilpatrick in 2008, could not have made it through airport security without triggering metal detectors or looking like the “Michelin Man.”
The money was not visible after Jensen, wearing a short-sleeve white T-shirt and blue jeans, stuffed the cash down his pants.
There was, however, a thin crease visible above his waistline. Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas seized on the crease while questioning U.S. Homeland Security official Steve Lorincz.
“So you let people go through airport security like that?” Thomas asked Lorincz, who oversees screening at the airport.
“I would not do anything with that,” Lorincz said.
“You would not ask him to go through a secondary (check)point?” Thomas asked.
Lorincz said the crease appeared innocuous and is something airport security screeners see “thousands of times every day.”
“And you’re here to ensure our safety,” Thomas said insultingly.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds told the lawyer to move on.
Thomas faulted Jensen for not hiding the money in his pockets, like Clift did when he allegedly delivered the money to Kilpatrick.
“Wouldn’t you want the test to be accurate?” Thomas asked.
“The test was accurate,” Jensen said.
Prosecutors told jurors Friday that an alleged bagman could have successfully smuggled $90,000 cash through airport security — money that later was delivered to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
A federal official told jurors about a test conducted in October after defense lawyers claimed it would have been unlikely and impractical that Kilpatrick pal Mahlon Clift made it through Detroit Metropolitan Airport metal detectors with $90,000 strapped to his body.
Clift, a longtime friend of the former mayor, testified in September that co-defendant Bobby Ferguson gave him a bag stuffed with $90,000 and told him to deliver it to “Black” — his nickname for Kilpatrick.
Clift flew to Chicago and hid the money — $100 and $50 bills — in a vacuum cleaner before delivering the cash to Kilpatrick in Texas and Detroit. The cash was Kilpatrick’s cut of racketeering activity, prosecutors allege.
After defense lawyers said Clift’s clothes would have been bulging like the “Michelin Man,” and metal threads woven into the currency would have triggered airport metal detectors, prosecutors arranged a test.
They strapped $90,000 to an FBI agent and had him go through airport security 100 times.
Steve Lorincz, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official who oversees screening operations at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, testified Friday that the metal detectors never went off during the test.
The metal detectors in place today are the same from 2008 and are calibrated to detect metal and other weapons — not paper currency, Lorincz testified.
It is not illegal for domestic travelers to carry large amounts of cash through airport security, he said.
Bernard Kilpatrick’s lawyer tried explaining away $123,000 in cash deposited into the political consultant’s bank account in 2004 at a time when prosecutors allege he was extorting money from city contractors.
Defense attorney John Shea tried to blunt testimony from IRS Special Agent Rowena Schuch about Kilpatrick’s finances, suggesting the money was not taxable income and could have reflected loan repayments.
“If he loaned money to somebody in 2003 and he received a cash repayment in 2004, and he deposited that into his personal account, you have no way of knowing whether the cash was a loan repayment or not, correct?” Shea asked.
“Correct,” Schuch said.
“You have no idea if Mr. Kilpatrick borrowed $5,000 in cash and deposited it into one of his accounts, correct?” Shea asked.
“Correct,” Schuch said.
Prosecutors have spent parts of two days analyzing Kilpatrick’s finances, which soared dramatically during his son’s tenure as Detroit mayor.
The government alleges he understated his income, filed false tax returns, deposited more than $605,000 in cash during his son’s tenure and lost almost $218,000 gambling in Detroit and Las Vegas.
Shea later conceded his client understates his income in 2005 but the error was not “willful,” and not illegal.
Bernard Kilpatrick deposited more than $605,000 in cash into his personal bank accounts during his son’s tenure as Detroit mayor — a period when prosecutors allege he was extorting money from city contractors.
IRS Special Agent Rowena Schuch described the deposits as prosecutors tried to prove Kilpatrick understated his income and filed phony tax returns.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked the agent if the deposits from 2002 to 2008 could have included money given as gifts or loans, which are not taxable.
“With everyone I interviewed, I asked if those payments to Bernard Kilpatrick were in the form of gifts or loans and I did not find anybody who indicated he had been paid as a gift or a loan,” Schuch said.
From 2004 to 2007, Kilpatrick failed to pay the IRS $182,796 in taxes, the agent testified.
In 2007, he understated his income by almost $325,000, Schuch said.
Star witness Derrick Miller is singing to the feds and likely will testify Monday, so what better way for Kwame Kilpatrick to pass time in court than reading sheet music?
Kilpatrick was spotted inside U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds’s courtroom Thursday reading a summary of Miller’s interviews with FBI agents while prosecutors pored over his father’s financial records.
The FBI summary presumably covers wide stretches of the 100-page indictment against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and contractor Bobby Ferguson.
The News reported Thursday that Miller is expected to testify as early as Monday about bribery and powder-room payoffs.