DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A former Romulus police chief awaiting trial in July on corruption charges has pleaded guilty to racketeering, embezzlement and misconduct charges.
Michael St. Andre made the pleas Wednesday at a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court, where he was scheduled to go on trial this summer. Judge Michael Hathaway is scheduled to sentence him Oct. 17. The racketeering charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the chief and a group of five detectives used more than $100,000 in drug forfeiture money to pay for prostitutes, alcohol and marijuana, and to buy a tanning salon for the chief’s wife, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre.
State police and the FBI say the scam involved allegations of drug and alcohol violations at a pair of strip clubs — the Landing Strip Bar in Romulus and Subi’s Place in Southgate — an investigation hidden from the undercover unit’s supervisor. Results of that strip club investigation never made it to the prosecutors, according to 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 St. Andre.
According to prosecutors, 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.
Investigators say St. Andre brought the corruption into his home, even bringing his wife into the picture. Vlaz-St. Andre used stolen money from the city forfeiture fund, authorities say, which she deposited into a personal checking account and used to buy a tanning salon business.
Vlaz-St. Andre was sentenced in February to spend 7 to 20 years in prison for her role in the scheme.
Ex-detectives Larry Droege and Jeremy Channels were found guilty on related charges following a trial that ended in March, the Detroit News reported.
Three other officers, Richard Balzer, Richard Landry and Donald Hopkins, face trial Aug. 4 in the case.
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