Ex-FBI agent defends Flint water probe after criticism
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A former FBI agent who was hired to investigate the water scandal in Flint, Michigan, has defended his team’s work following criticism by state prosecutors, saying new criminal charges were in the works when he and the others were swept out.
Andy Arena, who has busted mobsters and corrupt politicians, said no one from the attorney general’s office sought to understand his investigation into why the city turned to the Flint River for its water supply while waiting for a pipeline to be built from Lake Huron. The river water wasn’t properly treated, unleashing lead into homes throughout Flint.
“Yeah, I’ve been accused of things before. It’s part of the job,” Arena told The Detroit News . “But you’ve got to stand up to defend yourself, too. And not just me, the team that I assembled. They’re hurt by this.”
Arena was ousted in February, after the election of a new attorney general. Special prosecutor Todd Flood was removed in April. Fifteen people were charged under their watch; seven pleaded no contest to misdemeanors.
In June, Fadwa Hammoud of the attorney general’s office dropped charges in eight pending cases and said her team was starting from scratch. She accused Flood’s team of overlooking records and other evidence. The criticism continued at a public forum last week.
“Your success is not based on how many documents you get. Your success is based on the relevancy of documents,” Arena said.
He said he had been focusing on the decisions that led to the water switch while others on the team were concentrating on what happened later.
“In my opinion, additional people were going to be charged,” said Arena, adding that he would have been “dropping a heavy rock” within six months.
He defended the plea deals with many state and local water regulators.
“When you’re investigating the Gambino crime family, you don’t take your shot at John Gotti,” said Arena, who led the FBI’s office in New York. “You start with the bookies and the gamblers and the loan sharks and you work your way up. As you are working your way up, you will make plea agreements.”
A spokeswoman at the attorney general’s office, Courtney Covington, said the new team is committed to a “complete investigation.”
“That investigation will be the singular focus of the team’s energies and attention moving forward,” she told the News.