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 Devin Kowalski, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington.
John Gibson, 54, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to defrauding Wayne County out of nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds. Gibson and his supervisor, fellow Wayne County employee Kevin Gunn, 64, of West Bloomfield, 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. Gunn pleaded guilty to these charges in January and is awaiting sentence.
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 and Gibson. At the beginning of the investigation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office secured a search warrant which 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.
The investigation determined that between January 2019 and August 2021, Gunn and Gibson solicited vendors to purchase generators and other power equipment from local retailers on behalf of Wayne County. The vendors then submitted invoices for these items to Wayne County. To conceal the scheme to defraud, Gunn instructed the vendors to falsify the invoices they submitted to the Roads Division by listing 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 direction. Roads Division employees then approved and paid each vendor’s invoice with taxpayer funds. Next, 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. Gibson and Gunn were arrested in May 2022 by FBI agents, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Investigators, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies.
Conspiracy to commit federal program theft carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, Gibson faces an advisory sentencing guideline range of 18 to 24 months in prison.
United States Attorney Dawn Ison said, “Today’s guilty plea is the culmination of months of collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. We thank Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy for her uncompromising efforts to seek justice for the hardworking taxpayers of Wayne County as we work together to root out corruption at all levels of government.”
“The brazen scheme to defraud Wayne County of nearly $2 million for personal gain is an affront to all Wayne County taxpayers. The guilty plea today represents the combined investigative efforts that involved my office, and the offices of the Wayne County Executive, the Wayne County Sheriff, and the FBI. We can all be proud of the work that we have done to root out corruption and bring justice in this case,” said Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
“Public officials are entrusted to use taxpayer money for its intended purpose, not for their personal gain. Today, Mr. Gibson is being held accountable for violating that trust,” said Devin J. Kowalski, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “I commend the early work of our partners at the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, Wayne County Executive, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and for their continued commitment to holding Mr. Gibson and his co-conspirators accountable for their federal crimes.”
“The alleged actions of these individuals are nothing short of disgraceful,” said Sheriff Raphael Washington. “To brazenly steal from hardworking taxpayers and fraudulently line their own pockets while holding positions of public trust make these crimes all the more deplorable. This case is another example of our strong commitment to working together.”
The investigation was conducted by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Public Corruption Task Force which includes the Michigan Attorney General's Office, Detroit Police Department, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In addition, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and his administration have been assisting and cooperating with the investigation since they first learned of fraudulent activity within their organization. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eaton P. Brown.