The body of a former Michigan airport boss has been found in his garage after he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on the day he was due to serve a 10-year prison sentence on charges of bribery.
The body of former Detroit Metropolitan Airport chief James Warner was found Friday at his home in Commerce Township, a court spokesman said.
The death was thought to be a suicide since Warner, 55, was convicted of 10 offenses of bribery, theft, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice back in June 2019.
Warner gave $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three associates, including William Prytula, Douglas Earles and Gary Tenaglia, in exchange for more than $6 million in kickbacks, according to prosecutors.
The amount raised is considered the highest in the history of Metro Detroit corruption cases, as well as the third largest in the history of the country.
During the investigation, the government took $11 million from Warner and his associates.
“There really is nothing to say. To be honest, it’s just a real shock, ”Warner lawyer Harold Gurevich said in an interview with The Detroit Press. “I’m sorry this happened.”
Former Detroit airport chief James Warner, 55, reportedly killed himself on Friday after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Warner was found in the garage of his home in Commerce Township on the day he was due to begin serving a 10-year sentence on charges of bribery.
Before Warner’s death, both prosecutors and defense attorneys argued about the former airport boss’s predicament, debating whether he would go on his own or run away while on bail.
After being convicted of the charges, Warner was allowed to remain free on bail by order of US District Judge Victoria Roberts.
“I’m glad Mr. Warner was free and spent the rest of his life with his family,” Roberts also told the publication.
She also said that it’s not uncommon for Warner to remain on bail due to the pandemic, which has limited incarceration.
His relatives last saw him on Wednesday afternoon, and two days later his body was found in his garage.
However, prosecutors fought to keep Warner in jail after his February 2020 sentencing, where they noted his lengthy prison term and his history of mental health, which could have caused him to escape.
Warner worked at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, where he is said to have given $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three unidentified associates in exchange for more than $6 million in kickbacks.
It was revealed that Warner had struggled with issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, as well as treatment for bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder, prompting prosecutors to ask the judge for a prison sentence pending a court appeal.
“For most of his life, he struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eaton Brown said in a 2020 lawsuit.
“Six months after he admitted to FBI agents that he took bribes and kickbacks from airport contractors in this case, his family found him suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning in a barn near his home.”
Prosecutors also noted that federal investigators failed to notice the additional $1.4 million Warner received.
However, Gurewitz fought for his client, claiming that Warner had sought mental health treatment and honored the terms of his bail.
Despite two years of trying to overturn his conviction, he was later ordered to drop his bail case after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.
Warner’s lawyer Harold Gurevich previously defended his client after prosecutors said he was mentally ill and in danger of fleeing when a judge allowed him to remain free on bail.
A warrant was then obtained for Warner’s arrest pending the discovery of his body.
Warner’s bribery scheme began in May 2010 while working as a field inspector at an airport where he had access to maintenance and repair contracts.
One of his plots involved Romulan businessman William Prytula, who had contracts with the airport.
According to the government, Warner overbilled Prytula’s work at the airport, with payouts totaling more than $18 million.
According to the indictment, Warner received about half of that contract profit, which is more than $5 million, as part of this plan.
In July 2018, Prytula pleaded guilty to bribery and agreed to pay the government $5.4 million.
Another contractor, who authorities say is named Gary Tenaglia, was also implicated in the Warner scheme and was charged with defrauding the Wayne County Airport Authority of $1.5 million.
One of Warner’s accomplices, Gary Tenaglia, was previously accused of embezzling $1.5 million from the Wayne County Airport Authority.
Prosecutors said Warner provided Tenaglia with confidential information about Envision Electric so they could enter into contracts with the former airport boss and receive 10 percent of the profits.
Prosecutors also alleged that the couple had dinner together, where Warner offered a $5,000 kickback on a napkin he handed to Tenaglia.
As soon as Tenaglia realized that he was being asked, Warner ate the napkin.
A third accomplice, Douglas Earles, 60, also pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from the Wayne County Airport Authority between 2010 and 2013.
For his part, Earles, who owned and operated North Star Water Management and North Star Plumbing, was also fraudulently overbilling.
Earls gave Warner a kickback of about 40 percent of the profits.
In June 2019, Warner was convicted of 10 offenses of bribery, theft, money laundering conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.