(DETROIT, MI) – Emma Bell, 66, of Detroit, a former fundraiser for Kwame Kilpatrick, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds to two counts of tax evasion, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to Bell’s plea agreement, between 2003 and 2008, Bell worked as a fundraiser for nonprofit entities that included Kilpatrick for Mayor, the Kilpatrick Inaugural Committee, and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. Bell was paid a percentage of the funds she raised for these entities, as determined by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick—usually a commission of between 10 percent and 15 percent. Bell received payments from the Kilpatrick-related entities totaling over $900,000, none of which she reported as income to the Internal Revenue Service.
At the direction of Kilpatrick, Bell split her commission checks with him, giving him cash whenever she received a check of $5,000 or more. When Kilpatrick’s portion of the commission checks exceeded $10,000, Bell would make multiple deliveries of cash to Kilpatrick on different occasions so that she would not cause her bank to create a currency transaction report by obtaining over $10,000 in cash at one time. Bell also failed to report gambling winnings, interest, and other income during this time period.
“This is one more step forward in our prosecution of public corruption in the City of Detroit,” McQuade said. “We continue to make progress in bringing public officials to justice.”
“This plea shows that Emma Bell recognizes the seriousness of concealing the income she received from the Kilpatrick-related entities. There are severe consequences when one hides income from the federal government to evade taxes,” said Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Arena said: “The FBI will continue to investigate and expose the public officials and their associates who participate in schemes involving blatant greed.”
Emma Bell is released on bond pending her sentencing. She was referred to the United States Probation Department for a presentence investigation. Bell faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to ten years in prison or a fine of $500,000, or both.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the government agreed to recommend that Bell be sentenced to no more than 18 months in prison. The agreement also provides that Bell will cooperate in the government’s continuing investigation of others, and that she could be eligible to receive a sentence reduction if her cooperation is deemed to be substantial assistance under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The plea agreement provides that if the government makes a motion for a sentence reduction, it will request that Bell be sentenced within the range of 9-12 months; however, the amount of sentence reduction, if any, would be decided by the United States District Judge. The plea agreement requires Bell to pay her federal income tax due and owing, that is, $334,236, as well as to file amended returns with the State of Michigan and City of Detroit and pay any additional tax due to the State and City.