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Feds charge ex-Romulus mayor with wire fraud in corruption crackdown


Detroit — Federal prosecutors Friday charged the former mayor of Romulus with wire fraud for spending more than $15,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.

The alleged scheme involved former Mayor LeRoy Burcroff defrauding campaign donors who thought the money would be spent re-electing the Downriver politician, according to prosecutors.

“In truth and in fact, however, Burcroff used over $15,000 of the money contributed to his campaign account for his own personal benefit instead of to benefit the campaign,” the criminal case reads.

Burcroff, 58, is the latest current or former public official charged during a more than decade-long federal assault on corruption within municipal government and organized labor around Metro Detroit. That crackdown has led to charges against more than 110 people and the convictions of the two past presidents of the United Auto Workers union, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and 23 contractors and public officials in Macomb County.

As part of the alleged scheme, Burcroff, now 58, wired a $2,400-plus payment to the Belleville Yacht Club in November 2017 from the “Committee to Elect LeRoy D. Burcroff" checking account, prosecutors alleged.

"If you talk to people that know LeRoy and actually worked with him at the city, as opposed to his political enemies, they will tell you that Leroy always gave 100% of his best efforts to his hometown, the city of Romulus, even giving money back to the city during tough financial times," his lawyer Walter Piszczatowski wrote in an email to The Detroit News. "Leroy has a great love for his hometown and helped turn the city around, which before his tenure, was experiencing layoffs, furloughed employees and closed parks.

"LeRoy has given nearly a quarter-century of dedicated and honorable service to the city," he added.

Councilwoman Kathleen Abdo was saddened to learn about the criminal charge Friday.

“Leroy is a good man and did a good job while he was in office,” she said.

He was charged 10 months after federal investigators sent a grand jury subpoena to the Wayne County Clerk's Office about the mayor's campaign finance statements. The subpoena followed questions about the spending of campaign money in 2013 on the wedding of Burcroff's daughter. 

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He was charged in a criminal information, which indicates he is expected to plead guilty to a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. 

Burcroff is the second Downriver politician charged in federal court in recent years and accused of spending campaign cash on personal expenses.

Former Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars is awaiting trial in a federal corruption case that involves allegations he cashed more than $30,000 worth of campaign checks at a party store while corrupting a city foreclosed-property program.

In July, the Michigan Secretary of State's Office said it had been investigating allegations around Burcroff's campaign spending for months.

Burcroff's prior attorney, Daniel J. Wholihan, told The News in July that the mayor had returned in September 2020 at least $4,500 in campaign funds used to cover the wedding costs. 

play
Driven by Greed: An interactive view of Metro Detroit corruption
A video primer on corruption: Count the kickbacks, cash and bribes pocketed by Metro Detroit's most corrupt UAW bosses, auto execs and politicians.
Robert Snell, The Detroit News

Burcroff was first elected in 2013 but did not run for re-election in November amid questions about the FBI investigation. He was succeeded by Robert McCraight.

“It’s unfortunate and I’m saddened by it for LeRoy and his family,” said McCraight, who worked for Burcroff as the city’s director of Economic Development and Public Services.

“My dealings with LeRoy were always about integrity and character in the operations of the city,” he added.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews