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Central figure in Macomb County corruption investigation pleads guilty

scales of justice
North Charleston
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
A major figure in a Macomb County corruption scandal has pleaded guilty to bribery and embezzlement.

The former head of a garbage hauling company pleaded guilty Thursday to playing a central role in Macomb County’s widespread corruption scandal.

Chuck Rizzo was the CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services, which had garbage service contracts with a number of Macomb County communities.

Rizzo admitted in federal court that he conspired to bribe two local officials, in Clinton and Macomb Townships, to get and maintain favorable contracts for the company.

Rizzo also pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own company between 2014 and 2016, when a private equity firm held a majority stake in it.

The government says he used that money to bankroll the bribes. Rizzo Environmental Services was later sold to a Canadian firm.

Rizzo is a central player in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into a web of alleged “widespread” public corruption in Macomb County and beyond.

That investigation has expanded to include former members of Macomb County’s Public Works office and the city of Detroit’s main towing contractor. So far, it’s led to criminal charges against 17 people, and 11 guilty pleas.

The acting U.S. Attorney for Detroit Daniel Lemisch said in a statement that Rizzo’s guilty plea “demonstrates that bribe payers face significant penalties for spreading corruption through municipal government — penalties just as severe as those faced by the public officials who take the bribes.”

Rizzo had been one of the government’s star witnesses in the case until he stopped cooperating with the FBI. He now faces up to 10 years in prison, and must forfeit $4 million to the government.

The plea deal hinges on Rizzo’s father, Charles Rizzo, pleading guilty to similar charges later this month. If Rizzo cooperates with the ongoing investigation, prosecutors will recommend dropping his sentence to six years in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for early next year.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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