Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith resigning amid charges in forfeiture fund scandal

Posted at 1:34 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 17:49:51-04

(WXYZ) — Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith is resigning from office, 7 Action News has learned.

Last week, he was charged by the Michigan Attorney General with ten felonies, including running a criminal enterprise, embezzlement and tampering with evidence. Smith stood mute and a not guilty plea entered on his behalf. He had also said he would run for re-election this year.

In a letter, Smith wrote:

Since 1993, I have served the citizens of Macomb County as an assistant prosecuting attorney and then as the elected prosecuting attorney to the best of my abilities. I could never see myself in any other profession. I have had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated public servants one could hope to know. From my colleagues in the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the judiciary, members of local, county and state government, to the men and women in law enforcement departments across the state, I am honored to have stood shoulder to shoulder with so many exemplary people in the fight for justice.

With that said, it is with heavy heart that today I am announcing my immediate resignation from the Office of the Macomb County Prosecutor. After much reflection, I know that for the betterment of my family, my health, and the citizens of Macomb County it is time for me to step aside so that the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office can continue its great tradition of serving and protecting the county.

There have been several allegations leveled against me by the Michigan Department of Attorney General in the past few days. I intend to whole-heartedly defend myself against those allegations. I have been part of the criminal justice system for close to thirty years. Know that I have absolute confidence that our cherished justice system will bring forth the truth and exonerate me.

To the citizens of Macomb County, thank you for allowing me to be your prosecutor for so many years. I remain humbled by your trust and confidence in me. The Office of the Macomb County Prosecutor is bigger than any one person. I know that the office will continue to serve the county with distinction. God bless you all.

His resignation means a new prosecutor would be appointed by a Macomb County panel of elected officials to finish the year of the term. Smith was first elected in 2004.

He and three others are charged with misusing $600,000 in forfeiture funds controlled by Smith over several years. He is out on a $100,000 personal bond.

The investigation began last year by the Michigan Attorney General and led to Michigan State Police raids of Smith’s office in April. In May, MSP went to Smith’s home and removed security cameras that were installed on the outside.

Smith has repeatedly said he has spent the money appropriately.

Questions about the spending of the funds were first raised by auditors a few years as being “off the books,” meaning controlled only by Smith’s office. The auditors were working with Macomb County Treasurer Larry Rocca and County Executive Mark Hackel.

Over several years, $1.8 million dollars was collected in drug forfeiture and drunk driving cases. Records show questionable expenditures went for trips, parties, security companies, charities and churches. Half of the funds were shared with local police agencies.