Charges announced against former Romulus chief and several officers in corruption investigation

ROMULUS, Mich., (WXYZ) - Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy announced charges in the corruption probe of several Romulus Police Department law enforcement officers.

The press conference was held on the 12th floor of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office in Detroit.

Former Romulus Police Chief Mike St. Andre, his wife and five officers were arrested or turned themselves in to the Michigan State Police Monday.

All seven were released on personal bonds after being arraigned in 34th District Court Tuesday afternoon.

The presiding judge is allowing the officers to keep their firearms but they have been ordered to stay away from all former informants and current witnesses involved in the case.

Charges are as follows:

Former Chief Michael St. Andre is facing 10 felony counts that include Conducting a Criminal Enterprise which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

For his wife Sandra Kay Vlaz-St. Andre, she faces four counts including Conducting a Criminal Enterprise and Receiving and Concealing Stolen Property over $20,000.00.

Detective Richard Balzer is facing seven felony criminal counts including Conducting a Criminal Enterprise and Misconduct in Office.

Officer Donald Hopkins is facing a seven counts including a charge of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise and Misconduct in Office.

Detective Richard Landry is charged with a seven count felony. He's accused of conspiracy and embezzlement.

Officer Jeremy Channells is facing a three felonies including Misconduct in Office and Neglect of Duty.

Detective Larry Droege faces Misconduct in Office and Neglect of Duty.

The arrests follow a more than three-year investigation into alleged misconduct in the department's drug enforcement unit, sources tell Action News.

Michigan State Police raided the police department in March and have been leading the investigation in conjunction with the Wayne County Prosecutor's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Also raided at that time was St. Andre's home in Garden City and his wife's tanning salon in Westland.

The Action News Investigators broke the story of how MSP has been looking for evidence to support allegations that tens of thousands of dollars had been taken from the police department's drug forfeiture accounts. At least one kilo of cocaine used by undercover officers in reverse drug buys was also missing.

Prosecutor Worthy says some of the charges relate to hookers and drugs used by the officers. There also are allegations that some officers on the drug enforcement team may have "padded overtime," putting in for extra hours they really didn't work.

 

Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert released the following statement about the charges:

"For several years, we have cooperated fully with an investigation by the Michigan State Police into the Romulus Police Department," Mayor Lambert said. "After hearing the Wayne County Prosecutor discuss the charges, I am very disappointed in the actions that were alleged. The end result will be a matter of due process.

"As a former police officer, I know the importance of public trust and integrity – especially in matters of public safety. I will work with other elected officials and our new Police Chief Robert Dickerson to strengthen the faith and trust between our residents and our Police Department. I hired Chief Dickerson because he has a strong background in law enforcement and police administrative operations and I will work with him to move this department forward.

"The charges against these five officers and our former police chief are not indicative of our entire Police Department. Our police officers are dedicated, professional individuals who uphold the law. They agree with me: that keeping our neighborhoods safe is our top priority."

The new Romulus Police Chief Robert Dickerson spoke at the city council meeting on Monday night as well as the Mayor, assuring the people that this should not be a reflection of the entire department; it is just a handful of individuals. Dickerson said "I can move on without a cloud over the department." And the Mayor Alan Lambert said, "I want the people to know the Police Department will protect them."

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