Public Official Who Ate Napkin Found Guilty Of Bribery


Ellie Gardey Contributor
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A Detroit Metropolitan Airport official was convicted Wednesday for receiving more than $5 million in bribes, and could face more than 30 years in prison. This is the largest bribe in a corruption case in Detroit and one of the largest in the county.

James Warner, 52, gasped when he was found guilty on 10 charges, according to The Detroit News, including bribery, theft and money laundering conspiracies, and obstruction of justice.

In court, a witness testified that Warner consumed a paper napkin after using it to sneakily propose a bribe amount to a contractor. The witness said that Warner wrote the bribe amount down to avoid saying it out loud in case he was being recorded. 

“During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin. He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia,” the indictment says.

“After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it,” prosecutors wrote.

Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told The Daily Caller of the napkin: “He put it in his mouth and ate it — which indicates that he was agreeing to the bribe and wanted to destroy the evidence, which is an admission of guilt.”

During a four-year period, Warner is believed to have overcharged the airport for work done by contractors, fabricated invoices, and accepted more than $5 million in bribes. Warner once told a contractor that kickbacks were “the cost of doing business” at the airport, according to the indictment.

In one described scheme, Warner billed the airport for plumbing fixtures which were never installed, and took a kickback of 40 percent of the profits.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

“If it weren’t for me, your ass would be out,” Warner told a contractor, the indictment reports. 

A co-conspirator testified that Warner frisked him, forcing him to take off his sweater and unbutton his shirt so that Warner could search him for listening devices.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eaton Brown in her closing argument stated that Warner had cloaked himself in a “web of deceit” to commit his bribery scheme in order to “satisfy his greed.”

“Today’s conviction reinforces our dedication to prosecuting corrupt public officials who put their own greed over the best interests of the public. This is certainly true here, where the defendant showed little concern for the infrastructure of our very own airport,” Schneider said in a press release.

The advisory sentence for Warner is 24-30 years in federal prison, according to Schneider, who also told The Daily Caller that the government would pursue a sentence within the guideline range, or “at least” within the guideline range.