Ferguson dubbed 'the king' by extorted contractors, feds say

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department played a key role in the racketeering conspiracy, a federal prosecutor said during opening statements.

“Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick figured out the water department was the deepest pocket in the city,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow told jurors.

The department had a $1 billion budget for outside services, which Kilpatrick and his pal Ferguson targeted for themselves, the prosecutor said.

Kilpatrick had special powers to approve contracts without oversight or scrutiny, Chutkow said.

Kilpatrick held a $50 million contract to fix aging sewers until businessman Tony Soave dumped another businessman, the prosecutor said.

Soave was CEO of a company called Inland Waters, which is referred to in the indictment as “Company I.”

Chutkow referenced another company, Lakeshore Engineering Services, which initially rebuffed overtures from Ferguson to be cut in on a city deal. Lakeshore is referred to as “Company L” in the indictment.

After losing the job, the firm’s executives agreed to bring in Ferguson, Chutkow told jurors.

“They would not cross the king again, as they called Ferguson,” Chutkow said.

Robert Snell
Robert Snell is the Detroit News federal courts reporter. He can be reached at rsnell@detnews.com or (313) 222-2028.