Ex-cop guilty of bribery in sale of Genoa camp

By Christopher Behnan
A former Detroit police officer pleaded guilty Friday to participating in a $50,000 bribery scheme to secure the $3.5 million sale of the Detroit Recreation Camp in Genoa Township to the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Metro Detroit.

The camp was purchased by the diocese in 2007, and is now known as Camp Chaldean. The sale was for 160 acres of the 200-acre property off Kellogg Road.
Jerry Rivers, a former Detroit police officer, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to bribery conspiracy charges.
A court filing states Rivers and “co-conspirators” recruited a middleman to accept $50,000 from the “nonprofit entity,” which suggests the Chaldean Church.
Church officials denied any kind of payoff to secure the deal.
Spokesman Robert Kakos said the church submitted an “above board and transparent” bid.
“I don’t even know how it would apply to us. It literally went down a checklist,” Kakos said.
While not involved in the sale process itself, Kakos researched insurance for the camp and ways to host special events and youth groups there.
Detroit City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta was a holdout vote to approve the camp sale.
When reached Friday, Kenyatta told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus he wants the sale rescinded, regardless of who is to blame in the bribery scheme.
He said a church official called him prior to the vote and offered to fix up vacant city property for children to use in exchange for his “yes” vote.
“I don’t have a problem going after the church if the church was involved in any kind of fraud in any kind of way,” Kenyatta said.
“This whole thing is not pure. All the hands in this deal are not clean,” he added.
Kenyatta said he became suspicious when a $4.5 million bid for the property was overlooked by the Detroit City Council, and he added that the church never actually submitted a bid for the land.
He said a church representative told him that someone from former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s office approached the church about buying the property.
Kakos said the church officially bid $3.5 million, which he said was the highest bid
Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said information about Detroit Recreation Camp deal came to light during a wider investigation into public corruption. She wouldn’t say if the investigation was limited to Detroit officials, however.

Balaya wouldn’t elaborate about the case, or what the church’s role may or may not be in it.
“It’s just part of an ongoing public corruption investigation,” she said.
Friday afternoon, it was learned the corruption investigation was branching into Detroit’s sale of real estate properties, and several more city officials may be ensnared in the scandal.
Kakos said Kenyatta was upset a nonprofit group from outside Detroit was interested in the city-owned property.
He likened the city’s resistance to the sale to its reluctance to work with the Detroit suburbs to overhaul Cobo Hall.
“Their concern wasn’t the amount. Their concern wasn’t the process,” Kakos said.
Kenyatta countered that he wasn’t interested in selling the property to anyone, period.
Two city officials assisted Rivers, using their positions in the city administration to advocate that the administration and City Council approve the sale of the camp for $3.5 million, according to court documents.
After the sale closed, $20,000 of the $50,000 payment went to Rivers; $20,000 to an unnamed city official; and $10,000 to a second, unnamed city official, the documents state.
Federal officials said they recruited a middleman to accept the money from the nonprofit because they didn’t want the money to go directly to themselves.
According to the documents, the first unnamed official sent a letter to the City Council on May 25, 2007, recommending the sale.
Rivers faces up to five years in a federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
Under his plea agreement, however, Rivers likely won’t serve more than 37 months in prison in exchange for cooperating in the other ongoing investigations.
The sale of Detroit Recreation Camp was part of Kilpatrick’s plan to sell off surplus land in order to help the city’s budget. The plan has produced less revenue so far than the Kilpatrick administration had hoped
The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Metro Detroit, based in Southfield, is offering free camp events for children with special needs, and other events for children considered at-risk youth.

Kakos said the church has invested heavily in the site in repairs and renovations, and has no plans to relocate.
“We’re going to be there for the next century, if not longer,” he said.
The Chaldean church has had a relatively peaceful existence in the township, aside from noise complaints during the camp’s annual Chaldean Music Festival.
The camp is working with township officials to curb noise concerns for next summer’s festival.
Around the time of last summer’s festival, several traffic signs, as well as two signs directing people to the camp, were defaced with racially derogatory graffiti directed at Chaldeans and Jews, camp officials said.
The camp has also been called Camp Brighton, which isn’t to be confused with a former women’s prison in Hamburg Township with the same name