MONROE (WWJ/AP) - A Michigan State Police lieutenant has reached a plea deal after being accused of stealing property seized during drug operations and other crimes.
Emmanuel Riopelle, a 44-year-old Grosse Ile resident, pleaded no contest Friday in Monroe Circuit Court to one count misconduct in office, a five-year felony.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the conviction effectively ends Riopelle’s law enforcement career. Because Riopelle’s misconduct occurred while he served in a position of public trust, state law requires him to also forfeit his pension.
“Law enforcement officials who abuse their position for personal gain undermine public safety for everyone,” Schuette said in a statement. “We will hold corrupt officials accountable, wherever they are found.”
Schuette said Riopelle was charged in Feb. 2011 for coordinating an extensive scheme to systematically embezzle property and money seized from suspects from March 2006 to December 2008.
Former Michigan State Police Lt. Luke Davis, 50, of Monroe, and Monroe County resident Lawrence Dusseau, 44, were also charged in Feb. 2011 for their roles in the scheme. On March 26, 2013, Dusseau pleaded guilty to two counts of title jumping to avoid the state use tax, a five-year felony. Dusseau’s sentencing is set for May 30, 2013. Davis is scheduled for trial on May 13, 2013.
The alleged embezzlement was uncovered by state police following a Nov. 28, 2008 complaint from a suspect alleging Davis stole property from his home. Schuette said a search of Davis’ home on Dec. 4, 2008 revealed the stolen property, as well as vicodin, oxycotin, steroids, a wall covered with a large quantity of men’s and women’s jewelry, 30 designer purses, 22 cell phones, computers, televisions, motorcycles, and a golf cart, among other property.
Subsequent investigation revealed Davis allegedly developed a system of embezzling seized property from the drug unit he commanded. According to Michigan State Police policy, seized property is to be sold at public auction, put to official use, or destroyed. But in March 2006, Schuette said Davis, with the help of Riopelle and Dusseau, began diverting some property for his own use or giving it away rather than selling it at auction.
It is also alleged Davis used Dusseau as a “straw buyer” at the auctions, falsifying receipts to show Dusseau purchased the property at auction, but Dusseau would later sell the property to a third-party and then split the profits with Davis. Embezzled items included flat-screen televisions, designer purses, furniture, cell phones, automobiles and electronics, according to police.
Upon issuance of the charges, Davis and Riopelle were placed on unpaid suspension.
“The Michigan State Police does not tolerate criminal behavior within its ranks,” Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, Michigan State Police director, said in a statement. “However, I am encouraged that two of the three charged in this case have entered pleas and am confident Mr. Davis will be held responsible for his criminal acts.”
A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.
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