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Grand jury subpoenas Romulus mayor's campaign records following 7 Investigation

July subpoena followed questions over yacht club, wedding expenses
Posted at 5:39 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 18:11:47-04

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — A federal grand jury subpoenaed the campaign records of Romulus Mayor LeRoy Burcroff after a 7 Investigation revealed a slew of questionable expenses the mayor would later reimburse.

The Wayne County Clerk confirms that its office received and complied with the summer subpoena, which sought campaign records dating back to 2015.

The grand jury’s request came after a 7 Action News investigation revealed that Burcroff used campaign cash to pay for yacht club memberships, payments to family members, a new Jeep Wrangler he said was used for business purposes and a portion of Burcroff’s daughter’s wedding in 2017.

RELATED: Romulus Mayor used campaign to fund part of daughter's wedding, returns $20k in questioned expenses

In May, Burcroff’s attorney Daniel Wholihan sent a letter to the state acknowledging that Burcroff used his campaign fund to cover $4,500 in expenses from his daughter’s wedding. He also admitted to using nearly $15,000 from the fund to make regular donations to his own church.

Burcroff repaid $20,000 to his campaign fund and announced he would not seek re-election. Still, the feds appear to have taken note.

"You just can’t un-ring the bell," said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anjali Prasad. "You can give the money back, you can get out of politics, but there’s some things you just can’t walk back in the eyes of the United States Department of Justice."

WXYZ's reports triggered a complaint to Michigan's Secretary of State, prompting Burcroff to ultimately repay much of the questioned funds.

RELATED: Yacht clubs. SUVs. Paying family. See how Michigan leaders spend campaign funds.

But while most campaign finance inquiries are resolved with just paying a fine, the grand jury's involvement significantly raises the stakes, according to legal experts.

"A federal investigation into campaign finance issues might start out as an investigation of the campaign violations themselves,” said former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, “and then they turn into the fact that maybe the candidate violated the banking laws or the wire fraud laws or something else.”

Grand juries operate in secret, so it is unclear what triggered the probe into Burcroff's campaign or whether it is still ongoing. Calls to his attorneys for comment were not returned.

Schneider said it's not uncommon for investigations to be borne out of probes that began elsewhere, like a neighboring community.

"Government investigations might spin off into different tangents," he said, "And the investigators don’t stop. They keep looking wherever there might be a crime."

No one in Romulus has been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.