Charge filed in building and safety scandal

‘When you’re doing processes, I think the danger is many people are nice, and they don’t think about someone who would deliberately try and skirt the system.’ — Mayor John O’Reilly Jr.

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers
DEARBORN — More than a year after FBI investigators seized ledgers, documents and files in an after-hours sweep of Building and Safety Department offices, a criminal bribery charge has been filed against a former clerk.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday charged Leticia Bosemon of Inkster with one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. Beginning in the fall of 2006 through June 2008, Bosemon allegedly took bribes in exchange for falsifying performance bonds and temporary certificates of occupancy, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit. In each calendar year over that period, she allegedly accepted in excess of $5,000. Bosemon was terminated shortly after the investigation began.
While it is not clear from the complaint exactly how the scheme worked, the process involved was as follows: When a house sells in Dearborn, the homebuyer is required to place the estimated cost of repairs to bring the house up to code into an escrow account with the city. Depending on the age and condition of the house, that sum can be well upward of $50,000.
Posting a performance bond, which generally requires the homebuyer to post only 10 percent of the expected repair costs, can help alleviate that financial burden.
Once the money is posted, a temporary certificate of occupancy, or C of O, is issued for the time the repairs are under way. When the house passes final inspection, a full C of O is issued.
FBI officials would not divulge further details related to the Bosemon case, but said the investigation is not complete.
“Like any criminal investigation, we will continue to follow leads and investigate further until we’re satisfied we have all the information,” FBI spokesman Kerry McCafferty said.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said he hopes the charge will allow the city to move forward in the wake of the scandal. In assessing what made the scheme possible, he said it was a lack of internal financial controls that gave Bosemon unilateral control over the escrow process.
O’Reilly was uncertain when asked whether the accounting misstep was mentioned in recent independent audits of city finances, but said he saw how the flaw could have been overlooked.
He likened the Bosemon case to that of former Dearborn police Cpl. Alex Ramirez, recently convicted on several charges stemming from a ticket-fixing scheme. Ramirez admitted to taking tickets from an unattended ticket drop box at the police station and offering the recipients a chance to get rid of the tickets for a bribe.
O’Reilly said both cases illustrate how the criminally minded can find ways to exploit loopholes in the system.
“When you’re doing processes, I think the danger is many people are nice, and they don’t think about someone who would deliberately try and skirt the system. When you’re trying to figure out how to work out processes in an office, you’re not thinking through every possible way someone can cheat the system. I mean, you should, but you don’t.
“Human nature is ‘this should work,’ and it’s only when you find the flaw sometimes – and I recognize we’ve got to be better at planning – that you realize the problem,” said O’Reilly.