Ecorse — The city’s police chief and other officers are being investigated for an alleged “orchestrated cover-up” after questions were raised about their handling of a stolen truck, according to an affidavit from an FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force agent.
In response to the allegation, outgoing Ecorse chief Michael Moore accused the agent in charge of the investigation of committing perjury in the sworn affidavit.
A search warrant return affidavit obtained by The Detroit News, which was signed Feb. 11, 2019, by Peter Acklerly, a Michigan Attorney General special agent and FBI task force member, alleges “false statements” were made by Ecorse officers about a 2014 Ford F-150 truck that was stolen from Chesterfield Township in 2016. The truck ended up being driven by an Ecorse police corporal.
Moore insists Ackerly was untruthful in his search warrant return.
“I told him, ‘you perjured yourself in the affidavit for the warrant,'” Moore said.
When asked about Moore’s allegation, Ryan Jarvi, spokesman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, said in an email: “We stand by the affidavit.”
Jarvi declined further comment because he said the investigation is still open. FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider also declined to comment.
Moore said he’s retiring “shortly,” after the City Council voted in September against renewing his contract.
“This is all old news,” Moore said when asked about the allegations laid out in the search warrant return.
The flap over the stolen F-150 has ties to Detroit’s years-long towing corruption scandal, which involves a now-disbanded stolen car task force, COBRA, that included Ecorse, Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck.
Moore claimed Detroit police Chief James Craig said to him during a 2017 meeting about the COBRA unit, “you’re doing illegal stuff,” because of how Ecorse officers were processing stolen vehicles. Craig has denied making the remark.
Detroit police Lt. Michael Parish, who oversees the department’s towing operations, told The Detroit News that Ecorse officers have improperly used the Law Enforcement Information Network computer system when logging stolen vehicles.
Former Detroit assistant chief James White sent a memo in 2017 to Highland Park’s police chief, claiming an officer also was improperly logging stolen cars into the LEIN system. Highland Park officials have not commented on the letter did not immediately respond to an email sent Wednesday seeking comment.
The four police departments worked together as part of the COBRA stolen car task force until the unit disbanded in 2017, following complaints by Detroit officials about how cops in Ecorse and Highland Park processed stolen vehicles.
The COBRA unit is mentioned in Ackerly’s search warrant affidavit, which sought access to the email accounts of Moore and Ecorse officers Kevin Barkman and James Frierson.
In the affidavit, Ackerly said the emails might reveal “valuable statements” made by Moore, Barkman and Frierson about the stolen F-150. It’s unclear whether the request was granted, or if anything was found in the email accounts.
Attempts to reach Barkman and Frierson were unsuccessful.
The F-150 Tremor Edition truck at the heart of the investigation was reported stolen out of Chesterfield Township on Oct. 1, 2016. Chesterfield Township police entered the truck’s information into the LEIN system the same day, Ackerly wrote.
Two years later, Ackerly wrote, he and an FBI special agent interviewed Ecorse police officers Cornelius Herring and Geoffrey Howard, who told the investigators that Barkman was improperly processing the stolen truck.
“Herring and Howard told Agents that the F-150 was towed to Mars Towing in Ecorse,” Ackerly wrote. “Sgts. Herring and Howard provided Agents a recorded interview with (a Mars employee). In the recording, (the employee) stated that he was directed by Barkman … that if an insurance company called Mars inquiring about the condition of the F-150, to advise the insurance company it was frame and wheels only.
“The investigation has revealed that the vehicle was in fact an intact F-150 at that time,” Ackerly wrote.
Herring and Howard told investigators that in August 2017, Barkman had the truck listed with the Secretary of State as an abandoned vehicle.
Under Michigan law, if the owner of an abandoned vehicle doesn’t respond within 20 days after it’s towed, the vehicles become property of the police department that oversaw their recovery. The vehicles are then scrapped, retained by the police department or auctioned off.
“Barkman obtained a new title for the F-150 and converted the F-150 to a City of Ecorse owned vehicle,” Ackerly wrote. “Herring and Howard assert this was done with the knowledge and consent of Ecorse Police Chief Michael Moore.
“Barkman regularly drove the F-150 as his assigned take-home vehicle (until 2018),” Ackerly wrote.
“Sgts. Howard and Herring assert that Barkman provided other vehicles for the City of Ecorse, including a 2010 Nissan Armada which is driven by Chief Moore,” Ackerly wrote, adding that Barkman obtained the vehicle through forfeiture while working on the COBRA unit.
“Chief Moore currently drives the Nissan as hisdepartmentally issued take-home vehicle,” Ackerly wrote.
Moore insisted his department handled the truck properly.
“This is a situation where a few police officers don’t like Barkman because he’s openly gay,” Moore said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Herringin 2018 brought a lawsuit against the city, claiming he was fired because he exposed the alleged wrongdoing. Moore insists he fired Herring last year for covering for a fellow police officer who was caught driving while intoxicated.
Flat Rock attorney David Grunow was retained by Ecorse to look into the allegations made by Herring and Howard about the truck. In a Feb. 23, 2018, letter, Grunow wrote that he’d interviewed the two officers about their claims.
Grunow’s letter says Moore investigated the allegations of LEIN abuse “and found no justification for the complaint … and found that there was insufficient evidence to discipline Cpl. Barkman.”
Source: The Detroit News