Macomb County Probate Public Administrator resigns after investigation

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) - The 7 Investigators are getting results yet again with our investigation into the probate courts, with a high-profile resignation.

7 Investigator Heather Catallo has been showing you how several local families have been losing large parts of their inheritance to certain public officials and real estate brokers.

Here’s what’s been happening: Real Estate Broker Ralph Roberts has teamed up with some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators. The Public Administrators and Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes that are at stake in the estates after someone dies.  The Public Administrators then take legal fees from the estate.

Roberts told us last fall that he’s brought more than $4.5 million into estates since 2013.  The heirs get some of that, but Roberts often takes 1/3 of the estate.

“I find properties.  I believe there’s a benefit, so I then tell a public administrator, here’s the benefit there,” said Roberts in November 2016.

“So you’re getting the real estate fees, and you’re getting the Probate Asset Recovery fees,” asked Catallo.

“If we’re successful, yes,” said Roberts. 

In the wake of our investigation, Attorney General Bill Schuette suspended Macomb County Public Administrator Cecil St. Pierre on May 1, 2017.

On Thursday, St. Pierre officially resigned as a Public Administrator.

Letter of Resignation by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

St. Pierre told the Attorney General that because of a “barrage of false allegations” he decided to step down.

Cecil St. Pierre Resignation acknowledgement by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

The resignation came within hours of a Judge issuing an order for St. Pierre to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to show up for a Macomb County probate hearing this morning.

Court order by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

In many of the cases, the houses at stake are in foreclosure or the owners were behind on their taxes. Now that the 7 Investigators have exposed this practice, the Attorney General is suspending all Public Administrators from opening any new estates with homes that are in foreclosure or those that owe taxes.

During the suspension, Schuette’s staff will be reviewing whether they need to come up with additional rules for how to handle these estates.

If this has happened to you, click HERE to file a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General, who appoints Public Administrators.

Click HERE to file a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission.

Click HERE to file a complaint with the State of Michigan against a real estate agent/broker.

If you have a story for Heather Catallo, please email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473.

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