DETROIT (AP) — A taste for premium steaks, shopping at Gucci and a five-bedroom mansion helped send former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to state prison. His latest legal hardship is a federal indictment with allegations of even more reckless spending.
Kilpatrick was charged Wednesday with fraud and tax crimes as the government accused him of enriching himself and others by milking $640,000 from the Civic Fund, a tax-exempt charity that he created as a good-works effort to enhance Detroit and improve the city's image.
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Kilpatrick instead used it to pay for yoga, golf, camp for his kids, travel, a video about his family's history, cars, polling, college tuition for relatives and much more, including "counter-surveillance and anti-bugging equipment," according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said Kilpatrick personally benefited in and out of office but failed to report it on his tax returns from 2003 to 2008.
He got news of the indictment at a prison in northern Michigan, 275 miles from Detroit, where he is serving at least 14 months for violating probation in an unrelated 2008 criminal case that ended his reign at City Hall.
"It is important that public officials not escape prosecution just because they leave office," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. "Public officials need to be held accountable to deter them and others from cheating our citizens in the future."
Kilpatrick's lawyer, James Thomas, said he talked to the former mayor about the charges.
"Just because the government brings a tax case doesn't mean they'll be successful," he said. "We have a different view than the government. We'll be ready."
The indictment said donors were misled into believing their money would be used for legal purposes. Adolph Mongo, a political consultant to Kilpatrick in 2005, told The Associated Press he was paid out of the Civic Fund. He described it as being like an ATM.
The government alleges Kilpatrick received nearly $200,000 from the fund in 2007 in the form of cash, private jet flights and other personal expenses — an amount that exceeded his annual salary as mayor.
His mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., said she was devastated by the charges. The ex-mayor's spokesman, Mike Paul, struck a positive tone, noting the indictment does not allege any bribery schemes after a yearslong investigation at City Hall that has netted ex-councilwoman Monica Conyers and many others.
"This investigation puts an end to the ridiculous rumors that the mayor was personally involved with corruption, payoffs and bribes. ... Those rumors were hurtful and were lies from the pit of hell!" Paul said in an e-mail.
Not so fast, McQuade told AP.
"The investigation is continuing. If we find additional charges that we can prove they will be brought," the prosecutor said.
The 13 fraud charges each carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. Judges, however, mostly order concurrent sentences, which means Kilpatrick would not serve the rest of his life behind bars if convicted.
With his custom suits, cufflinks and shirts personalized with "Mayor," Kilpatrick has been drawn to the high life, even after moving to Texas in 2009. His family settled in Southlake, an affluent Dallas suburb, in a leased 5,800-square-foot house larger than Detroit's mayoral mansion.
That lifestyle crashed in May when Kilpatrick was sentenced to up to five years in a Michigan prison for violating probation in a different criminal case. A judge said the ex-mayor had failed to disclose certain assets and turn over money that could have reduced his $1 million restitution to Detroit, a penalty for lying about an affair with his top aide in a lawsuit that cost the city $8.4 million.
During a series of hearings, it was revealed that Kilpatrick had spent $800 on Omaha steaks, $595 at a Gucci store and nearly $20,000 for plastic surgery for his wife, among other things.
A prominent Detroit pastor, the Rev. Horace Sheffield, said the federal indictment is another chapter in a "sad saga."
"At some point, the Kwame Kilpatrick story needs to end," he said. "It tarnishes the reputable way his mother has served in Congress. Detroit is more than Kwame Kilpatrick."
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Associated Press Writer Corey Williams contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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