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Detroit police chief indicted for embezzling $2.6-million

Published Feb. 12, 1991|Updated Oct. 12, 2005

Detroit's police chief and his former top deputy were indicted by a federal grand jury on Monday and charged with stealing $2.6-million from a police undercover-operations fund. The indictment of the chief, William Hart, a 67-year-old lifetime member of the department, came after an 18-month investigation by federal agents into what they said was the disappearance of money from a secret fund used to pay informers, buy drugs and conduct undercover investigations.

Hart was charged with seven counts of embezzlement and income tax invasion, and with trying to get a witness to testify falsely before the grand jury. His former deputy, Kenneth Weiner, was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion.

The indictment of Hart was a blow to Mayor Coleman A. Young, who had appointed him 15 years ago, who is frequently seen publicly with him and who was a partner in some businesses with Weiner.

Announcing the indictments on Monday, the U.S. attorney, Stephen Markman, accused the mayor and the Detroit Police Department of delaying the investigation with "legal roadblocks and obstacles," which he would not specify. But he added that the grand jury had found "no credible evidence" to indict the mayor in connection with the police fund.

In his first campaign for mayor 17 years ago, Young accused the Detroit Police Department of abusing blacks and vowed that if elected as the city's first black mayor, he would end police brutality and corruption. He turned to Hart, also black, to carry out those pledges.

Young's office did not return calls on Monday seeking comment. The mayor, like a number of other black figures around the country, has accused federal prosecutors of unfairly zeroing in on black officials as a form of harassment. The Justice Department has denied all such charges.

A police spokeswoman, Ailene Ray, said neither Hart nor the department had any comment. Weiner, who is white, is in prison on other charges and would not comment.

City Council officials said they expected Hart to be suspended without pay, as would any other officer charged with a felony.

The charges against him include embezzlement of public funds and obstruction of justice, both of which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; conspiracy, a felony with a five-year maximum penalty; and income-tax evasion, which carries a top penalty of three years' imprisonment.

The indictment also accuses Weiner of conspiring with Hart to embezzle money from the police fund, starting in 1986. Under the alleged conspiracy, Weiner formed five corporations, all with accounts in California banks, that were paid with 54 checks from the police fund totaling $1.3-million. Both men had access to the money, the indictment said.

The indictment accuses Hart of telling city officials, including the auditor general, that the payments were for "covert operations," the purpose of which could not be revealed without endangering police officers.

The indictment says money channeled to one corporation, Sonigro Inc., was used to pay the rent on the home of Robin Bangs, Hart's daughter, and her husband in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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