Former Wayne County employee pleads guilty for stealing over $1.7M from county

Posted at 12:26 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 12:37:34-05

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — A former Wayne County Roads Division employee pleaded guilty Wednesday for stealing over $1.7 million in funds from the county.

Kevin Gunn, 64, of West Bloomfield, pleaded guilty today for defrauding Wayne County out of nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds. Gunn, along with fellow Wayne County employee John L. Gibson, 54, of Detroit illegally used taxpayer dollars for unauthorized purchases of generators and other power equipment from retailers in metro Detroit retailers that were sold for personal profit. Gibson was indicted by a federal grand jury for these crimes in October 2022.

“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," United States Attorney Dawn Ison said in a press release Wednesday.

Conspiracy to commit theft from a federal program carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Theft from a federal program carries a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

The charges stem from an investigation into the misuse of taxpayers funds by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department that began in March of 2021.

"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.”

Due to the nature of the alleged crimes, the FBI was contacted by the Sheriff’s office to assist with the investigation.

“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.”

A search warrant obtained in the early stages of the investigation led investigators to the uncover the embezzlement scheme.

According to information obtained from the investigation, Gunn and Gibson solicited approved Wayne County vendors to buy generators and other power equipment from metro Detroit retailers on behalf of Wayne County between January 2019 and August 2021.

"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," Ison said.

"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."

Gunn faces 57-71 months in prison according to sentencing guidelines. His next court appearance will be on May 31 for sentencing.

“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.