ROMULUS (WWJ/AP) – Three ex-Romulus police detectives have pleaded no-contest to embezzlement charges in a deal with prosecutors to wrap up a corruption case that also brought the convictions of the chief and his wife.
Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller says Richard Balzer, Richard Landry and Donald Hopkins made the pleas Tuesday. Judge Michael Hathaway scheduled their sentencing Oct. 29.
Authorities say the detectives and ex-Chief Michael St. Andre 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.
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. Instead of investigating the allegations, authorities say the detectives were soliciting prostitutes for themselves.
Authorities 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 the 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.
St. Andre pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in May and is awaiting sentencing on Oct. 17.
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 of misconduct in office and neglect of duty following a trial that ended in March. Both received probation.
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