Prosecutors in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial demonstrated Friday that it is possible to sail through Detroit Metropolitan airport metal detectors wearing $90,000 in the waistband of one's pants without raising any suspicion.
In a scene oddly reminiscent of the movie Magic Mike, a rapt courtroom watched a video clip of an FBI agent stuffing 9 stacks of bills totaling $90,000 into his Levis and then walking through an airport magnetometer without setting off any visual or audio alarms.
The video sought to re-enact the testimony of government witness Mahlon Clift from last fall.
On September 25th 2012, Clift, a Chicago jeweler, testified that defendant Bobby Ferguson gave him $90,000 to deliver to "Black"- his college friend Kwame Kilpatrick. According to Clift, he stuffed the money in the pockets of his pants and boarded a flight from Detroit Metropolitan back to Chicago where he stored the stash in a vacuum cleaner bag.
The test was set up by the government last October in response to the defense's contention that there was no way Clift could have cleared the airport screeners without raising suspicion.
The defendants' lawyers argued that Clift would have looked like the "Michelin Man" due to obviously protruding bulges in his pants and that the metallic property of the $50 and $100 bills he was carrying would have set off the metal detectors.
Steve Lorincz, the director of screening operations at Detroit Metropolitan airport, testified that they used a CEIA magnetometer with settings similar to one that Clift would have passed through in September 2008.
The test was performed in two stages. In the first stage, FBI Special Agent Joseph Jensen, wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, took off anything metallic and passed through the CEIA detector without incident no less than 100 times. In the second stage, agent Jensen took the 9 stacks of bills and stuffed them all around the waistband of his jeans. He then proceeded to walk through the metal detector another 100 times, again without sounding any alarms.
Jim Thomas, Kilpatrick's lawyer, had several problems with the accuracy of the re-enactment. The defense lawyer questioned whether it was not possible that Clift had passed through the more intrusive body scanners which would have definitely revealed that he was packing $90,000 on his person. Thomas pointed to a November 2012 interview Lorincz had with FBI agents where he told them it was 99% possible that Clift had cleared a CEIA metal detector. Thus, said Thomas, there was a 1% chance that he went through a scanner.
Lorincz replied that was not the case as in 2008 there were only 2 scanners in the entire airport and they were only there for trial purposes.
Thursday recap: Kilpatricks' tax returns under microscope.
Thomas proceeded to play the clip of agent Jensen carefully placing the wads of cash in his jeans before pulling his t-shirt down to cover the stacks and then walking through the metal detector.
The defense lawyer pointed at the agent and asked the witness if he saw a crease along his waistline. Lorincz replied that he did not.
"Do you need glasses?" retorted Thomas.
Thomas then asked the witness if such a crease wouldn't raise red flags of concern. Lorincz answered that the TSA saw creases like that "thousands of times a day" at the airport.
"Creases like that?!?" asked an incredulous Thomas.
"He appears very fit," answered Lorincz of the money-loaded agent.
The witness also went onto explain that it is not illegal to carry large sums of money domestically and that airport screening chooses to focus on finding items which might actually pose a safety threat to passengers and airplanes
Agent Jensen made an appearance on the stand and brought in the $90,000 that had been used in the metal detector test.
Thomas questioned the FBI agent as to why he had not placed the cash in his pockets instead of in the waistband of his jeans. Agent Jensen said that was not the purpose of the test- the point was to see if the currency set off metal detector alarms which it did not.
At one point, US Attorney Jennifer Blackwell seemed inclined to pass the stacks of money around the jurors.
Judge Nancy Edmunds told her show it to them close up instead.
"Not that I don't trust you guys," Edmunds told the laughing jurors.