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Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith charged in connection with spending of forfeiture funds

Posted at 10:09 AM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 17:46:40-04

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith is one of four people charged with multiple crimes in connection with the spending of forfeiture funds controlled by his office.

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessell announced the charges against Smith, Assistant Prosecutor Derek Miller and two others.

In all, Smith faces 10 charges including:

  • 1 count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony;
  • 1 count tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding – a four-year felony;
  • 1 count accessory after the fact to Liston’s embezzlement by a public official – a five-year felony;
  • 1 count conducting a criminal enterprise – a 20-year felony;
  • 5 counts embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony – one count each for years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; and
  • 1 count of conspiracy to commit forgery – a 14-year felony and a $10,000 additional fine.

Miller is charged with official misconduct in office, and conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.

Benjamin Liston, a retried assistant prosecutor and former chief of operations, and businessman William Weber were also charged.

“In order for citizens to maintain trust in the institutions of government, public officials must, at all times, conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of our state,” Nessel said. “When public officials fail to do so, the people must have confidence that they will be held to account, fairly, and without any special treatment based upon their status as a public official. The Department of Attorney General, will continue to work to protect this fundamental principle, that no one is above the law.”

John Dakmak, an attorney for Smith, released this statement to 7 Action News.

We have been working and cooperating with the Michigan Department of Attorney General since last year while it continued to investigate politically motivated allegations about how our client, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith managed Macomb County’s forfeiture fund. We are shocked and dismayed to learn only through the media of the filing of charges by the attorney general. Regardless, we will vigorously defend Mr. Smith against these baseless allegations. We look forward to Mr. Smith’s day in open court, whenever that may be. As he has for over fifteen years, Mr. Smith will continue to run the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office efficiently and effectively with the needs of victims, law enforcement partners and the community as its top priority.

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.

Smith has been in office since 2004. He would be up for re-election this year but has not filed to run again.

For Smith to be removed as prosecutor, it would have to be decided by Whitmer or through an action of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.