Marshals find body of ex-Detroit airport supervisor sentenced to prison for bribery

James Warner dead from apparent suicide, officials say


DETROIT – The body of a former supervisor of the Wayne County Airport Authority was found by officials after he failed to surrender for a 10-year prison sentence in connection with a bribery scheme.

Deputies with the U.S. Marshals service found the body of James Warner around 9:30 a.m. Friday (Feb. 11) at his home in the 2900 block of Pinto Drive in Commerce Township, according to public information officer David Ashenfelter. Warner was reportedly found in the garage, and was believed to have died by suicide.

Warner, 55, a department manager in utilities and infrastructure at the WCAA, was convicted of fixing contracts and collecting bribes of more than $6 million. In February 2020, the man was sentenced to 10 years in prison, despite prosecutors’ desired 25 years.

U.S. Marshals reportedly served a warrant after Warned failed to report to prison for his sentencing, and that’s when they found his body.

Warner was accused of conspiring with William Pritula, who owned Pritula and Sons -- a company that entered contracts for pavement repair and replacement, as well as water main repair and fire hydrant installation and maintenance at the airport.

In his role, Warner was responsible for field inspection and supervision of maintenance and repair projects at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He also had the authority to recommend and approve the continuation of maintenance contracts during his time as an agent of the WCAA from 2010-2014, according to court documents.

Officials say that Warner and Pritula devised a plan in which Warner would provide confidential and proprietary information to Pritula so his company could secure contracts. After the contracts were secured, Warner, with Pritula’s permission, would create and submit fraudulent invoices on behalf of Pritula’s company for work contracted to be done at the airport, documents showed.

Documents state that the invoices “grossly inflated the cost and scope of William Pritula’s labor, so that William Pritula and James Warner could defraud the WCAA and pay kickbacks to James Warner.”

As part of the scheme, from September 2010 through October 2014, Pritula’s companies allegedly received more than $18,00,000 from the WCAA. Of that amount, Warner received more than $5,000,000 in kickbacks from the bribery and embezzlement conspiracy.

Warner also allegedly conspired with Gary Tengalia, who owned Envision Electric, a company that was to provide maintenance for airport parking structures, court records show. As part of their deal, Tengalia would pay cash kickbacks to Warner at least once a month, totaling more than $100,000 from about May 2011 to June 2014, court documents show.

Tengalia was charged with wire fraud in 2020 for allegedly scamming the airport out of more than $1,500,000.

More: Detroit airport kickback scheme leads to 10-year prison term

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.