Friday, November 26, 2021
A recently convicted attorney has ben suspended by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board.
Macomb Daily reported on the criminal case
An Oakland County attorney was convicted Wednesday of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery for his role in paying off a Clinton Township official for a vote on a municipal trash-hauling contract.
Jay Schwartz was found federal guilty by a jury following a three-day trial in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in U.S. District Court in Port Huron. The verdict announcement was posted on the federal court website at 6:33 p.m.
The jury deliberated about one hour and 15 minutes, a court official said.
He is scheduled to be sentenced March 17.
Bribery is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. The judge also could order Schwartz to repay up to three times the amount of money involved in the acts.
Schwartz likely will face ramifications on his law license. A Northville resident, he has been a lawyer for 30 years and operates Schwartz law firm in Farmington Hill.
Schwartz’s attorney, Thomas Cranmer, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning.
Schwartz was accused of providing over $40,000 worth of legal services to former Clinton Township trustee Dean Reynolds and helping Charles “Chuck” Rizzo, the CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services, provide a $3,000 cash bribe to Reynolds in 2015 in exchange for Reynolds’ vote and efforts to award Rizzo Environmental with a multi-million dollar, 10-year contract extension with the township.
Rizzo Environmental, which was located in Sterling Heights and is now defunct, was a client of the Schwartz’s firm for several years. Schwartz had been performing an increasing amount of legal work for Rizzo, with $365,000 worth of business in 2015, according to the feds.
The legal services provided to Reynolds were for his divorce case.
The extension was approved in February 2016 in a unanimous vote by the township Board of Trustees.
Cranmer argued in opening statements Monday that Schwartz was unaware of any bribery efforts between Rizzo and Reynolds and that the $1,500 fee paid by Reynolds to Schwartz’s firm was sufficient.
However, U.S. Attorneys presented evidence that showed Schwartz provided about $44,000 worth of legal services, based on about 152 hours of legal services provided to Reynolds at the firm’s rate of $195 per hour.
Electronic and telephonic communications show Schwartz also helped Rizzo and Reynolds cover up Rizzo paying $3,000 in cash to Reynolds as part of Reynolds’ contentious divorce case by advising them to have a third-party, a male family friend, sign a promissory note saying he loaned the money to Reynolds. Schwartz feared if Reynolds, who was pleading poverty in the divorce case, suddenly came up with the money, it would be made known to the judge.
In a phone call, Rizzo on Nov. 5, 2015 instructed an employee to put the money in an envelope for Reynolds to pick up at Rizzo’s office to pay for a psychological examination as part of his divorce case.
Reynolds, 54, was convicted in 2018 of 10 counts of bribery and four counts of bribery conspiracy following a trial for accepting $150,000 in bribes and favors for running four separate schemes in connection to the trash-hauling contract.
Reynolds’ 17-year sentence by Cleland in 2019 is the longest dished out in the years-long public corruption investigation centered in Macomb County by the feds that has resulted in convictions of more than two-dozen defendants, all but two by plea.
Rizzo, 51, was sentenced in 2018 to 5-½ years in prison by Cleland, who nonetheless pointed to his extensive cooperation, following his conviction by plea of bribery and embezzlement. Rizzo paid over $200,000 to five former elected officials in four Macomb County townships and villages to secure their votes in winning public contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, and stole $900,000 from the out-of-state majority owner. Rizzo was ordered to forfeit $4 million but was allowed to keep his $2.5-million West Bloomfield Township mansion.
About 15 supporters of Schwartz, including his parents, wife and two children, attended the opening day of the trial.