Nessel charges Democratic Macomb Co. Prosecutor Eric Smith with embezzlement

By: - March 24, 2020 1:50 pm

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, former County Treasurer and state Rep. Derek Miller (D-Warren) and two others have been charged with a number of felony crimes including embezzlement, misconduct in office and conducting a criminal enterprise.

Investigators estimate the total amount of money embezzled related to these crimes since 2012 is around $600,000. 

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel sought arrest warrants for Smith, a Democrat, and Miller, who currently serves as Macomb County assistant prosecutor and chief of operations. The other two men charged are retired Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor and former Chief of Operations Benjamin Liston and William Weber, the owner of Weber Security Group. This comes after a yearlong public integrity investigation. 

“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.”

Smith can be removed as county prosecutor by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or the Macomb County Board of Commissioners — which is chaired by Bob Smith, Eric Smith’s brother.

Eric Smith faces 10 charges, including official misconduct in office, tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding, accessory after the fact to Liston’s embezzlement by a public official, conducting a criminal enterprise, five counts of embezzlement by a public official and using a computer to commit or conspire to commit a crime.

“I have fully cooperated with the State Police investigation from the day it began,” Smith said in a news release. “I will continue to do so. Furthermore, I stand by my previous statements that these forfeiture funds were spent appropriately in accordance with the law.”

Liston faces four charges, including official misconduct in office, conducting a criminal enterprise and two counts of embezzlement by a public official.

Derek Miller

Miller faces two charges, including official misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.

Weber faces four charges, including forgery, larceny by conversion, aiding and abetting Smith’s embezzlement by a public official and receiving and concealing stolen property.

The attorney general’s office, along with multiple agencies and the Michigan State Police, began an investigation after Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, a fellow Democrat, filed a complaint with the office that called for an investigation into inappropriate use of forfeiture accounts. 

Forfeiture accounts are to be controlled by the county treasurer. However, investigators found Smith had four accounts containing public money he controlled without official county oversight, including: drug forfeiture, bad check restitution, operating while under the influence forfeiture and Warren drug court. 

Investigators also found that Weber provided false invoices totaling nearly $28,000 as part of the operation. 

“As Attorney General, I take no responsibility more seriously than protecting the public trust,” Nessel said. “The reason is simple: Without public trust, government fails. Without public trust, justice stands no chance against reckless abuses of power.” 

Judge Cynthia Arvant, who presides in Southfield’s 46th District Court, was appointed by the state court administrator to sign the warrants after Macomb County 41B District Court judges excused themselves from the case. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.