September 23, 2019
Michigan Airport Contractor Sentenced in Bribery Scheme
On September 23, 2019, in U.S. District Court, Detroit, Michigan, Douglas Earles, owner of North Star Water Management and North Star Plumbing (collectively, North Star), pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering. On that same day, the court sentenced Earles to 24 months’ probation, $98,431.04 in restitution, a $5,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment.
From May 2007 through January 2018, North Star entered into maintenance repair contracts with the Wayne County Airport Authority (WCAA), a recipient of Federal funds. Earles and James Warner, a former department manager in utilities and infrastructure at WCAA, devised a scheme in which Warner provided confidential and proprietary information to help Earles secure plumbing contracts at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) and Willow Run Airport. In addition, Warner drafted, fraudulently submitted, and deceptively approved invoices so that Earles could give him kickbacks from WCAA contract payments. From June 2010 through April 2015, North Star received over $370,000 in payments from WCAA, and Earles turned over $113,000 of that money to Warner.
DOT-OIG worked on this investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).