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     The City of Detroit announced that the Assessing Division will accept Poverty Tax Exemption (PTE) applications through December 20, beyond the original deadline of December 9. The City Assessing Division experienced long lines on December 9, although the City opened additional counters to help meet demand, the Assessor wanted to ensure that these Detroiters could be served. With such demand from Detroiters, the City will accept applications through December 20 to provide help to those seeking financial assistance.
     The City is committed to serving all of its citizens and complying with the mandated December 31 deadline to have an Assessment Roll prepared. To achieve this, the city Assessor has informed the Chief Financial Officer and the chair of the Board of Review that he will provide an amended certification after December 10. The Office of the Assessor will continue putting an Assessment Roll together through December 20, and urges all citizen to take advantage of this opportunity to turn in PTE applications.
     “We experienced a great response from residents seeking financial assistance on their property taxes. It’s important that we provide Detroiters with resources in a timely and efficient manner,” said Deputy Chief Financial Officer/Assessor Alvin Horhn. “Continuing to accept applications to December 20 will allow people more time to apply for the support they need to stay in their homes.”
  Depending on the household income, a homeowner can receive either a 50% or 100% exemption on their property taxes for each year they are eligible and apply. Having PTE also is a requirement under the proposed “Pay as You Stay” program city and county officials announced recently and is making its way through the State Legislature. If approved by the Legislature and the Governor, the program would eliminate all penalties and interest on back taxes for income-eligible residents and significantly reduce their monthly payment to get current on their tax bills.
  Officials expect to approve the largest number ever of PTEs this year – well over 6,000 – however thousands more are likely eligible. Over the past two years, the City has increased its efforts to notify eligible residents of the PTE. In 2014, for example, the city approved 3,800 PTEs and the numbers have increased annually since then.
  PTEs are granted only for the current tax year and can provide either a 50% or a 100% exemption from paying 2019 property taxes. based on the guidelines listed in the chart.
  How to Apply for a Poverty Tax Exemption: The City will be accepting applications for the PTE through December 20. Applications are available online at (search for “HPTAP”). Applications also may be requested to be sent by mail by call 313-224-3035 or by sending an email to [email protected]
  PTE is part of an overall effort to keep Detroiters in their homes
  Working closely with the Wayne County Treasurer, United Community Housing Coalition, the Quicken Loans Community Fund and others, the city has helped to significantly reduce tax foreclosures of occupied homes by more than 90% in the past five years. This has been a multi-layered approach:
• Led the effort in 2014 to pass HB 4882 to allow delinquent taxpayers to enter into payment plans and avoid foreclosure. 15,000 homeowners signed up in the first year alone.
• Completed the first citywide residential property reassessment since the 1950s to ensure home assessments are fair and reflect market values. The vast majority of Detroit homeowners saw their property assessments - and property tax bills - drop as a result. 
• Launched the Make It Home/Right Of Refusal program with the United Community Housing Coalition and Quicken Loans, which allows tenants in non-owner occupied properties to buy back homes at risk of foreclosure for $1,000. Since 2017, 1,142 properties have been removed from the foreclosure auction through this program. 
• Supported Neighbor to Neighbor door-to-door canvassing to every household in Detroit at risk of foreclosure, with the city’s Department of Neighborhoods and AmeriCorps VISTA teams recruiting volunteers.
• Expanded efforts to get eligible Detroiters to apply for the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program to receive a poverty tax exemption (PTE), which would eliminate or cut in half their property tax bill. 

City of Detroit to accept applications for homeowner tax exemption
Latin Counts gang leader sentenced to 20 years for drive-by shooting

     A leader of the Latin Counts gang was recently sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.
     Schneider was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge James Deir of the ATF’s Detroit Division, and Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department.
     Christopher Nicholas Rishell, a/k/a “C-5,” 30, of Lincoln Park, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland.
  According to court records, Rishell orchestrated and helped carry out with fellow Latin Counts gang members a drive-by shooting in a residential neighborhood of southwest Detroit that occurred on October 7, 2017, killing one victim and injuring two others. Rishell was the “president” of the Toledo Mafia Counts set of the Latin Counts at the time of the shooting.
  Also according to court records, the Latin Counts gang operates primarily in southwest Detroit and the downriver communities of Lincoln Park and Ecorse. The Latin Counts are a criminal enterprise responsible for murders, robberies, and the distribution of illegal drugs. The Latin Counts use violence to retaliate against rivals, intimidate citizens in the community, and advance members’ positions within the gang. 
  Through the lead efforts of the ATF, FBI, and the Detroit Homicide Task Force, law enforcement identified and charged a total of seven violent members of the Latin Counts gang responsible for the drive-by shooting, all of whom have since pleaded guilty.
  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Louis Crisostomo, Robert VanWert, and Eric Straus. 

Former UAW vice president pleads guilty to taking $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks
  Joseph Ashton, former Vice President of the UAW’s General Motors Department, pleaded guilty this month to conspiring with other UAW officials to engage in honest services fraud by taking $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks from a UAW vendor and to conspiring to launder the proceeds of the scheme. 
  “The hard-working members of the UAW deserve to be represented by union officials dedicated to providing honest representation free of corruption and greed, and (the) guilty plea is another step in the right direction,” US Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
  During the plea hearing, Ashton, 71, admitted that he conspired with Michael Grimes and Jeffery Pietrzyk, two former high-level UAW officials in the UAW’s GM Department who previously pled guilty to the same crimes, to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from vendors doing business with the joint UAW-GM Center for Human Resources between 2012 and 2016.  
  The Center for Human Resources is supposed to be a center for training UAW workers employed by GM. Ashton was the co-director of the Center for Human Resources. Ashton, Pietrzyk and Grimes also served on the Executive Board for the Center for Human Resources and they were responsible for approving contracts with the vendors. Ashton admitted that over the course of the conspiracy, he and the other two UAW officials demanded and accepted bribes and kickbacks from a vendor based in Philadelphia, PA, in exchange for securing or maintaining a contract to provide custom watches to the Center for Human Resources.
  Ashton and his UAW co-conspirators demanded kickbacks on the $3.9 million contract for the Center for Human Resources to buy 58,000 watches for all UAW members employed by GM. The UAW officials demanded over $250,000 in kickbacks on the watch contract to be distributed between 2013 through 2016. Some of the kickbacks were distributed in the form of checks payable to Ashton which were deposited into his personal bank account. The majority of the kickbacks were distributed as cash. In 2014, the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources received the 58,000 watches from the vendor. However, the watches were never distributed to UAW members. Instead, the watches have been sitting in storage in a warehouse for over five years.  
  “Joseph Ashton abused the power of his position in the UAW to brazenly demand kickbacks from a vendor. His actions deprived union members of the honest services they expect and deserve from those who are elected to make decisions in the union's best interest,” Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, Steven M. D’Antuono said. “The FBI is committed to fighting such corruption, which does real and lasting damage to the trust union members should have in their elected leadership."  
  Besides conspiring with other UAW officials and vendors to the UAW, Ashton also admitted that he conspired to launder the proceeds of the kickback scheme by using various methods to conceal and disguise the bribes and kickbacks through a lengthy and complicated series of financial transactions.  
  “Joseph Ashton was elected to represent and bargain in the best interests of the UAW members, but instead he used his position to enrich himself and others within the UAW” Thomas Murray, District Director, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards said. “Protecting members against corruption perpetrated by their union leaders is critical to the mission of OLMS.”
  Ashton is the eleventh defendant to plead guilty in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials by FCA executives and corruption within the UAW itself. The following individuals have already pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and have been sentenced: former FCA Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli (66 months in prison), former FCA Financial Analyst Jerome Durden (15 months in prison), former Director of FCA’s Employee Relations Department Michael Brown (12 months in prison), former senior UAW officials Virdell King (60 days in prison), Keith Mickens (12 months in prison), Nancy A. Johnson (12 months in prison), Monica Morgan, the widow of UAW Vice President General Holiefield (18 months in prison), and former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell (15 months in prison). Jeffery Pietrzyk and Michael Grimes have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.  
  “Joseph Ashton engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deprive the International United Auto Workers Union of his honest services by demanding and accepting over $250,000 in kickbacks from a vendor. Instead of bargaining in the best interests of the UAW members, he chose to personally enrich himself. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the financial integrity of labor organizations,” Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General said.
  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frances Carlson and Eaton Brown.