A former manager of a major American airport is on the lam as of Thursday morning after skipping out on his 10-year prison sentence for taking in more than $6 million in bribes.
James Warner, of Commerce Township, Michigan, is the former manager of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which operated Detroit Metro Airport, the 10th largest airport in the U.S. Warner was convicted of taking more than $6 million in kickbacks from three businessmen for contracts totaling $43.7 million, according to the Free Press:
Indicted is James Warner, 51, of Commerce Township, who is accused of pocketing more than $5 million in bribes and kickbacks for helping businessmen secure lucrative contracts with the Wayne County Airport Authority.
He did this, prosecutors say, by giving one contractor insider information that helped him secure work and writing and submitting fraudulently inflated invoices on behalf of another contractor, who then kicked back money to Warner when he got paid.
According to the indictment, Warner manipulated contracts for maintenance and repair work on runways and parking structures at Detroit Metro Airport from 2010 through 2014, while he was the department manager in utilities and infrastructure at the airport authority.
Prosecutors say Warner ran a pay-to-play scheme at the airport, telling another contractor that he “needed to be part of the ‘brotherhood’ at the airport and that cash kickbacks were the “cost of doing business.”
He spent two years free after his conviction while working on appeals, but he exhausted all routes to legal freedom after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear his case. All out of options, Warner was ordered to appear at a federal prison in Milan, MI, on February 10. Warner never showed.
During one of Warner’s meetings with a business associate, Warner wrote the cost of a kickback — $5,000 — and, once the businessman understood his meaning, Warner ate the napkin, the Free Press reports. But napkin-based kickbacks weren’t his only schemes:
On one occasion, Warner lied about the square footage and asphalt depth on an airport roadway project, creating and later approving a $938,000 bill from the subcontractor, who had only invoiced for $275,000. The two split the profits evenly.
On another occasion, Warner approved two invoices totaling $31,000 for the replacement of backflow preventers at the airport, though the work was never done. The contractor still got paid and kicked money back to Warner.
All three individuals involved in the kickback schemes plead guilty and received much lighter sentences than Warner. His accomplices have to pay quite of bit of cash to the U.S. Government and spend a few months in prison, but nothing like the decade Warner is facing. That is, if the feds ever catch him.