Airport test proves Kilpatrick 'bagman' claim

Kwame Kilpatrick (Cartoon by Henry Payne)

Kwame Kilpatrick (Cartoon by Henry Payne)

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.

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court Thursday.

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court Thursday.

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.

Homeland Security official Steve Lorincz

Homeland Security official Steve Lorincz

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.

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