Former county employee charged with bribery conspiracy

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 11, 2017

MACOMB COUNTY — A former Macomb County Public Works employee has been brought up on bribery conspiracy charges in the latest development in the federal government’s wide-ranging corruption investigation in the county.

James Pistilli was charged with one count of bribery conspiracy on Sept. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

According to the charges, from the spring of 2014 to October 2014, Pistilli did “unlawfully, willingly, and knowingly” offer $2,000 in cash to a Washington Township official in order to win a contract with the township.

Pistilli and another man, Paulin Modi, allegedly would facilitate communications between an unnamed company and Steven Hohensee, the superintendent of the Washington Township Department of Public Works.

During those communications, Pistilli and Modi allegedly said there was willingness by the unnamed company to pay a bribe to Hohensee for a contract.

Pistilli served as the chief engineer for wastewater service with the Macomb County Public Works office between 2011 and 2012. A spokesman with the office said Pistilli served in a couple of different positions prior to his chief engineer position and was originally hired by Macomb County Public Works in 2004.

According to the charges, Pistilli and Modi told Hohensee of the $2,000 bribe on Oct. 13, 2014, and paid him the $2,000 cash bribe on Oct. 20, 2014.

The alleged bribe is in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 666(a), according to the filing. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Pistilli’s attorney, Raymond Cassar, said Pistilli was arraigned Sept. 7 and he would go over the discovery materials provided by the government.

“He is still presumed innocent at this time,” Cassar said. “He is a good man and has never been in trouble in his entire life.”

Modi was brought up on the same bribery conspiracy charges in May, according to court documents.

Between March 23, 2014, and April 11, 2014, Hohensee accepted $10,000 in cash as a bribe from an informant working with the FBI, according to court documents. After, Hohensee agreed to work with the FBI and was doing so during the alleged bribe offered by Pistilli and Modi, according to Pistilli’s court documents.

These charges from the federal government come about a week after charges were filed against Macomb County contractor Christopher Sorrentino for allegedly paying a Macomb Township official cash kickbacks after receiving a check from the township for work he didn’t do.

All the charges are part of the government’s corruption investigation centered in Macomb County that involved bribery and fraud charges surrounding Rizzo Environmental Services.

Charles B. “Chuck” Rizzo, former CEO of the garbage hauler, and Gasper Fiore, of Grosse Pointe Shores, allegedly bribed public officials for the maintenance and procurement of municipal garbage contracts.

Former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas, former Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock and former New Haven trustees Christopher Craigmiles and Brett Harris have also been charged and accepted plea deals in relation to the investigation.