The body of an ex Michigan airport boss was found in his garage after killing himself using monoxide poisoning on the day he was due to report for a 10-year prison sentence on bribery charges.
Former Detroit Metropolitan Airport supervisor James Warner’s body was found on Friday at his home in Commerce Township, according to a court spokesman.
The death was believed to be a suicide as Warner, 55, had been convicted of 10 crimes relating to bribery, theft, money laundering conspiracies and obstruction of justice back in June 2019.
According to prosecutors, Warner had steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three co-conspirators including William Pritula, Douglas Earles and Gary Tenaglia in exchange for over $6 million in kickbacks.
The amount taken was considered to be the highest total in the history of public corruption cases in Metro Detroit as well as the third largest in the country’s history.
During the course of the investigation, the government has since taken $11 million from Warner and his fellow accomplices.
‘There’s really nothing to say. It’s just a real shock, quite frankly,’ Warner’s lawyer Harold Gurewitz told The Detroit Press. ‘I’m sorry that this has happened.’
Former Detroit airport supervisor James Warner, 55, was said to have killed himself using monoxide poisoning on Friday
Warner had been found in the garage of his home in Commerce Township on the day he was supposed to start serving a 10-year sentence on bribery charges
Prior to Warner’s death, both prosecutors and defense lawyers had sparred over the former airport boss’s predicament arguing over whether he would himself or flee while being set on bond.
After being found guilty of the charges, Warner was permitted to remain free on bond as ordered by US District Judge Victoria Roberts.
‘I am glad that Mr. Warner was free and spent the remaining years of his life with his family,’ Roberts also told the outlet.
She also said that it was not entirely uncommon for Warner to remain on bond due to the pandemic that has limited prison populations.
He was last seen by relatives after grabbing dinner on Wednesday night before his body was found two days later in his garage.
However, prosecutors had fought to keep Warner in jail after his sentencing in February 2020 where they noted his lengthy jail sentence and his history with mental health which posed him his as a flight risk.
Warner had worked at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport where he was said to have steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three unidentified co-conspirators in exchange for over $6 million in kickbacks
Warner was revealed to have struggled with issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts as well as treatment for bipolar and major depressive disorders which prompted prosecutors to ask the judge for jail time prior to an appeal from the court.
‘He has struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts for the majority of his life,’ Assistant US Attorney Eaton Brown said in a 2020 court filing.
‘Six months after confessing to FBI agents that he had accepted bribes and kickbacks from airport contractors in this case, his family found him suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning in a shed near his house.’
The prosecutors also noted that federal investigators failed to note an addition $1.4 million that Warner had obtained.
Gurewitz, however, fought for his client claiming that Warner had been seeking mental health treatment and was following the conditions of his bond.
Despite two years of attempting to overturn the conviction, he was later ordered to surrender his case of being freed from bond after the US Supreme Court denied to review it.
Warner’s lawyer Harold Gurewitz had previously defended his client after prosecutors claimed that he had been mentally unwell and at flight risk when the judge had let him remain free on bond
An arrest warrant was then obtained for Warner prior to the discovery of his body.
Warner’s bribery scheme had begun in May 2010 when he worked as an airport field inspector where he had access to maintenance and repair contracts.
One of his plots involved Romulus businessman William Pritula who held contracts with the airport.
According to the government, Warner had drafted inflated invoices for Pritula’s work at the airport with payments totaling over $18 million.
As a part of this plan, Warner had received about half of these contract profits slated at more than $5 million, according to an indictment.
In July 2018, Pritula plead guilty to bribery charges and agreed to paying $5.4 million back to the government.
Another contractor, who authorities claim to be identified as Gary Tenaglia, was also involved in Warner’s scheme and was accused of defrauding the Wayne County Airport Authority of $1.5 million.
One of Warner’s co-conspirators Gary Tenaglia was previously accused of defrauding the Wayne County Airport Authority of $1.5 million
Warner was reported to have given Tenaglia confidential information about Envision Electric so that they could win contracts with the former airport boss pocketing 10 percent of the profit, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors also alleged the pair had dinner together where Warner had proposed a $5,000 kickback amount on a napkin which he slid over to Tenaglia.
Once Tenaglia understood was being asked of him, the napkin was then ate by Warner.
The third co-conspirator Douglas Earles, 60, also pleaded guilty to stealing over $100,000 from Wayne County Airport Authority between 2010 to 2013.
For his part, Earles, who owned and operated North Star Water Management and North Star Plumbing, also would submit fraudulent inflated invoices.
Earles had given Warner a kickback of roughly 40 percent of the profits.
Warner convicted of 10 crimes relating to bribery, theft, money laundering conspiracies and obstruction of justice back in June 2019