ROMULUS (WWJ) – The former chief of the Romulus Police Department, his wife and five of his detectives will learn if they will face trial for using drug forfeiture funds for their own drugs, booze, prostitutes and a tanning salon business.
WWJ’s Ron Dewey reports Wednesday’s preliminary hearing is the next legal step in a case that was three years in the making.
State police and the FBI say the scam involved allegations of drug and alcohol violations at a pair of strip clubs, an investigation hidden from the undercover unit’s supervisor. Results of that strip club investigation never made it to the prosecutors, say authorities, and instead of investigating, detectives were soliciting prostitutes for themselves.
The investigation also uncovered evidence that over $49,000 in cash that was seized by the department went missing while under the direct control of former Police Chief Michael St. Andre.
According to a statement from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, between Jan. 2006 and Sept. 2011, St. Andre and five of his detectives allegedly made or assisted others in repeatedly making misrepresentations on expense reports in an effort to seek improper reimbursement; created fraudulent documents to support improper expenditures of drug forfeiture funds; obstructed justice; and made false statements in police reports.
“Creation of false documents to support improper expenditures or forfeiture funds, misuse of City of Romulus funds for personal gain, solicitation of prostitutes for personal gratification, and the buying of marijuana and alcohol to the tune of over $40,000 in a one-year period,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said earlier.
Officers charged in the case are Det. Sgt. Richard Balzer, Det. Donald Hopkins, Det. Richard Landry, Det. Jeremy Channells and Det. Larry Droege.
The former police chief’s wife, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre, is also facing felony charges in the case. She is accused of receiving stolen money from the city forfeiture fund which she allegedly deposited into a personal checking account and used to buy a tanning salon.
If bound over for trial, the seven face multiple felony charges that could land them in prison for up to 20 years.