DETROIT – A former Wayne County Roads Division employee pleaded guilty today to conspiring to steal over $1.7 million in county funds, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced.
Ison and Worthy were joined in the announcement by James A. Tarasca, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington.
Kevin Gunn, 64, of West Bloomfield, pleaded guilty to defrauding Wayne County out of nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds. Gunn, and fellow Wayne County employee John L. Gibson, 54, of Detroit engaged in a scheme to use taxpayer dollars to make unauthorized purchases of generators and other power equipment from retailers in southeast Michigan which they sold for personal profit. A federal grand jury indicted Gibson for these crimes in October 2022.
In March of 2021, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation into the misuse of taxpayer dollars. The Sheriff’s Department then solicited the assistance of the FBI to investigate the criminal actions of Gunn, Gibson, other employees of the Wayne County Roads Division, and vendors to Wayne County. At the beginning of the investigation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office secured a search warrant which broke open the case and led to the uncovering of the embezzlement scheme. Investigators with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office have played an ongoing and important role in the investigation.
As part of the scheme to defraud, between January 2019, and August 2021, Gunn and Gibson solicited approved Wayne County vendors to purchase generators and other power equipment from local retailers on behalf of Wayne County. The vendors would then submit invoices for these items to Wayne County. In order to conceal the scheme to defraud, Gunn instructed the vendors to falsify the invoices they submitted to the Roads Division, and list items the vendors were authorized to sell to the county under their contracts, rather than the generators and power equipment they were unlawfully acquiring at Gunn’s and Gibson’s request. Roads Division employees would then approve and pay each vendor’s invoice with taxpayer funds. After these fraudulent purchases were verified and approved by Roads Division employees, Gibson took possession of the equipment, paid Gunn for the items, and resold the generators and other items for personal profit.
A review of invoices from Wayne County vendors revealed that between January 16, 2019, and August 3, 2021, Wayne County vendors purchased 596 generators, and a variety of other power equipment including lawnmowers, chainsaws, and backpack blowers. The purchase of these items was not authorized under any vendor contract with Wayne County nor were the items ever provided to or used by Wayne County. The total value of equipment purchased as part of the scheme was approximately $1.7 million in taxpayer funds. Gibson and Gunn were arrested in May by FBI agents, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Investigators, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies.
Pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, Gunn faces a sentencing guideline range of 57-71 months in prison. Sentencing has been set for May 31, 2023.
Conspiracy to commit federal program theft carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Federal program theft carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
United States Attorney Dawn Ison said, “Today’s guilty plea is the culmination of months of collaboration between our federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who worked together to seek justice for the citizens of the Eastern District of Michigan. We thank Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and her uncompromising efforts to eliminate corrupt public officials who abuse their power and steal from the hardworking taxpayers of Wayne County.”
“This is the one of the worst types of betrayal of the public trust. Wayne County remains committed to sussing out corruption where we find it - no matter who is involved. We continue this work today. I want to thank CEO Evans for his continued cooperation, my detectives, and especially the United States Attorney’s office for their successful prosecution of the defendant,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy.
"The actions of this individual are nothing short of disgraceful,” said Sheriff Raphael Washington. “To brazenly steal from hardworking taxpayers and fraudulently line his own pockets while holding positions of public trust make these crimes all the more deplorable.”
“Public officials are entrusted to use taxpayer money for its intended purpose, not for their personal benefit. Today, Mr. Gunn is being held accountable for violating that trust,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “I would like to thank the Michigan Attorney General's Office and the Wayne County Prosecutor, Wayne County Executive, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for their partnership on this investigation.”
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eaton P. Brown.