Intelligence Report: Chicago connection to Detroit corruption case

September 25, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The former mayor of Detroit is now on trial for racketeering and extortion. But, Tuesday, it was a businessman from Chicago who appeared as a key witness.

There was a heaping dose of Chicago served up Tuesday in Detroit federal court. Prosecutors called Chicago businessman Mahlon Clift to the witness stand to testify about the bags of money he personally delivered to ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Clift's testimony was borderline comical as he described stuffing stacks of cash into his shorts before going through airport security.

Clift, described as a one-time jeweler to the stars in Chicago, was a college friend of Kilpatrick, the fallen Detroit mayor.

Kilpatrick is on trial in Detroit for racketeering, extortion and tax fraud among other things.

The government called Clift to testify after handing him a grant of immunity from prosecution.

And from the start it was clear why.

Clift testified that in 2008 he had come from Chicago to a hotel in Detroit and met with a top Kilpatrick aide who is also currently on trial.

Clift said that he was given a plastic bag containing $90,000 in cash that he was to deliver to the recently ousted Mayor Kilpatrick.

Clift told the jury that he came back to Chicago and kept the money in his vacuum cleaner until flying to Dallas where he was to hand it over to Mayor Kilpatrick.

When Clift said that he walked through the airport with money bulging from his gym shorts, a defense attorney suggested that he must have looked like the Michelin man cartoon character.

By the time Clift left the witness stand to return to Chicago Tuesday, it hadn't been established where the $90,000 came from, a point prosecutors say they intend to make in the coming days.

When Clift picked up the $90,000 at that Detroit hotel, the $50 and $100 bills were bundled in tissue paper and inside what he described as a gift bag.

Former mayor Kilpatrick is on trial with his own father, who is charged in the corruption scheme with an ex-city water boss. They are all accused of running a criminal enterprise through the mayor's office to enrich themselves.

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