Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick helped pave the way for his longtime friend Bobby Ferguson and his construction associates to land a contract for a low-income housing project in Detroit, according to testimony in the high-profile bid-rigging trial.
Donald LaVoy, deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, testified Tuesday that HUD wanted to hire one master developer to handle all aspects of the project.
Then Kilpatrick stepped in.
LaVoy testified that Kilpatrick, along with then-Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams, said one master developer wouldn't work.
Instead, Kilpatrick and Adams convinced the federal government to let the city handle the project's infrastructure, which included sewer, electrical and road systems, LaVoy testified.
That eventually opened the door for Ferguson, who prosecutors say rigged bids to win a nearly $12-million contract to work on the project, known as the Garden View Estates project.
LaVoy's testimony continues today.
Ferguson and associates Michael Woodhouse and Calvin Hall are on trial, accused of running a bid-rigging scheme to help Ferguson's construction company win the contract for Garden View Estates. Prosecutors say Ferguson convinced others to submit phony, inflated bids, so it would appear his bid was the lowest.
But two others who admitted to submitting the phony bids cut deals in the case and will be testifying against Ferguson at trial.
"This is a case of fraud, deceit and money," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Judge told jurors during opening statements Tuesday.
Ferguson is charged with laundering money, illegally dumping debris at the Garden View Estates site and using government funds to clean it up.
Ferguson's lawyer, Gerald Evelyn, accused the government of trying to inflame the jurors with "smoke and mirror" tactics. Evelyn said the Garden View site was already contaminated. He also denied that his client ever tried to hide money from the government.
"Bobby Ferguson helped himself, helped others, and helped people like himself get started," Evelyn said. "Mr. Ferguson never hid a dime, never covered anything up, and paid his income taxes on every dime that he ever earned."
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
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