Kilpatrick fundraiser set to testify about kickbacks

Former Kilpatrick fundraiser Emma Bell

Kwame Kilpatrick’s fundraiser is expected to take the witness stand Wednesday and testify about how the former mayor forced her to kickback cash contributed by campaign donors.

Bell is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty last year.

A longtime fundraiser for Kilpatrick, Bell was charged in federal court with income tax evasion. Under a plea deal, Bell pleaded guilty to two counts of tax evasion on Oct. 3, 2011, and has agreed to testify against Kilpatrick.

Under a plea deal, Bell has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and could spend 18-24 months in prison. If she provides substantial assistance, the government will ask a judge to cut the prison sentence in half to 9-12 months.

“It’s been hell,” Bell told reporters after a plea hearing last year. “You do stupid things, and I’m sorry. I just hope this all goes away and nobody else gets caught up. It was just stupid.”

Bell, who was earlier identified as paying kickbacks to Kilpatrick in 2003, failed to pay more than $206,000 in income taxes, according to federal prosecutors. That’s after allegedly receiving at least $534,000 worth of checks from Kilpatrick’s mayoral campaign, inauguration committee and the nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund from 2006 to 2007, according to court records.

She has agreed to pay $334,236 in taxes and $80,000 in fines.

In all, Bell received more than $900,000 in payments from Kilpatrick-related entities, none of which she reported as income to the IRS, prosecutors said.

Kilpatrick told Bell to split her commissions with him, paying the former mayor cash whenever she received a check totaling $5,000 or more, prosecutors allege.

If Kilpatrick’s cut was more than $10,000, prosecutors said Bell would make multiple deliveries of cash to the former mayor. That’s so she could avoid a bank regulation requiring IRS notification of all withdrawals of more than $10,000.

At one point during her plea hearing last year, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asked Bell why she was guilty.

“Um, your honor, I received money and did not file taxes on it,” Bell said. “It was a stupid thing on my part, and I apologize to the court, but I’m guilty.”

Bell has been identified as the unnamed female fundraiser referenced in the corruption indictment issued against Kilpatrick on Dec. 15, 2010, which accused the ex-mayor of taking more than $286,000 in kickbacks from his fundraising director. Campaign finance records show cash changing hands between Kilpatrick and Bell on key dates listed in the indictment.

Bell also reportedly failed to report $63,642 in gambling winnings, according to federal prosecutors.

The News first reported about Bell’s tax problems. At the time, she owed more than $153,000 in delinquent state and federal taxes, according to public records.

Bell attempted to evade income taxes between 2006 and 2008, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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