Is Detroit Challenging Atlanta as the Most Corrupt Airport in the Country?

I’ve written about corruption that goes on at the airport authority overseeing Washington DC airports but suggested it’s nothing compared to Atlanta which may be the most corrupt airport in the country. Georgia’s legislature considered putting the Atlanta airport under control of an independent authority, to take it out of the hands of politicians themselves under federal corruption investigations, a move that Delta opposed.

In Atlanta if you want to open a restaurant you donate to the mayor’s campaign and pay the former mayor’s daughter. The airport’s former manager was fired for being insufficiently corrupt, and then the city council buried the payments that bought his silence. The FBI has been involved.

It turns out that Detroit may give even Atlanta a run for its money. The airport’s former manager is in the midst of a federal criminal trial. James Warner is accused of “fabricating invoices, overcharging the airport for work performed by contractors and receiving more than $5 million worth of kickbacks during a four-year period” — which is even more than Detroit’s former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took in payoffs.

  • A former airport contractor who grossed “more than $16 million from airport contracts” testified about “an alleged bribery scheme that involved threats, lies and payoffs hidden in inches-thick envelopes.”

    He said he feared losing multi-million dollar contracts unless he paid bribes that totaled as much as $1 million to Warner, an airport inspector who approved invoices and oversaw maintenance work performed at the airport.

    Tenaglia said he was ordered to remove a sweater and unbutton his shirt to prove he wasn’t wearing a secret recording device.

    The former airport manager’s lawyer claims he isn’t a credible witness because he’s the guy who did the bribing (and has received sentencing consideration in exchange for his testimony).

  • Another contractor reportedly “drafted and submitted inflated invoices for work..total[ing] more than $18 million” out of which the airport manager “received approximately half of the profits from the contracts, or more than $5 million, according to the indictment.”

  • His wife sent invoices “for marketing and website consulting” for a website that didn’t exist.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Jeez, she could have paid someone on Fiver a few hundred to actually do the website work.

    Where does one hide millions in cash these days after Vegas Private Vaults was robbed?
    (access was totally cool…by retinal scan)

  2. Amerika morphing into a third world country by the month. So long as the penalties for embezzling, bribery, etc. are lenient this problem will become endemic. Stealing, receiving in bribes of $1, $16, $5 million will probably, if convicted, net the perps two years in Club Fed. Not bad. And if they were smart they will have funneled the stolen money into some third country account for safe keeping or have transferred it into the name of the spouse or children. The USA is fast becoming Brazil, Zimbabwe on steroids.

  3. Atlanta has perennially been the top violator. The airport is a mayor’s family & friends slush fund.
    Several investigations going on now.

  4. And the Democrats want to investigate Trump, , I would be upset also if I lost an Avenue if Revinue.

  5. Peter Schweizer wrote a book: “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends”. In this book, he wrote about the new form of corruption. Instead of giving cash and assets directly to the politicians, hire the son to a minimal show plush job. Employ the wife. Help out the wife’s family. Give the politician friends special favors. Influence the politician to align their interest in your direction, rather than making the direct illegal bribe.

    Personally, I think both sides of the aisle are equally corrupt in this regard.

  6. This is true in Georgia. The outgoing ‘Publican governor appointed many of his favorites to these plush jobs & put his daughter there also. In Atlanta the Democrat controlled government is running amok. The outgoing mayor’s office is under investigation about several items including bribes.. . . led by his fixer Rev Mitzi Bickers who lost many of her high end cars. It came to light the mayor early on bought a new (! ) vehicle for his use, but did not like the color & had it repainted. . . & was exposed that his vehicle regularly turned on the emergency lights to avoid traffic bottlenecks. Georgia has a capacity breaking feeding trough.

  7. I never understand why someone would object to investigating the President (D or R) or any other public official.
    We hire (vote) these people into office and if they break the law especially to enhance their position they should be prosecuted.
    If my favorite poll stole from US – yes US all of us are invested. Then investigate them and prosecute them. No hiding behind party lines or BS news stories of abuse.
    If they didn’t break the law they don’t get extra credit for NOT being a crook.
    They need to do their job and don’t have sticky fingers, just like the kid at McDonald’s.

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