CBS Detroit – A former Macomb County prosecutor is charged in a kickback scheme to get money from his re-election account. According to a report by the Detroit Free Press, Eric Smith who is the former Prosecutor for Macomb County was arraigned in court on a charge of obstruction of justice. A plea of not-guilty was put in by U.S. District Court Magistrate Anthony Patti, even though Smith agreed to a plea agreement of guilty a few weeks ago.
The federal charges against Smith accuse him of using two of his assistant prosecutors to help cover the theft of $70,000 from a campaign fund. According to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, reelection money from his campaign was used for “his own personal whims”, according to the Free Press. At issue, the $70,000 was put on the books as rent and political consulting. When really they allege it was kicked back to Smith. Federal prosecutors say he tried to get someone known as “Person A” to lie about $50,000 in rent payments. Payments they say that ultimately ended up in Smith’s pockets. “Person A” they claim was urged to describe the payments as a loan that Smith would payback. Then in February, it is alleged he pulled two assistant prosecutors aside, making sure they couldn’t record him with their cell phones.
They say he met in the stairwell inside the prosecutor’s office with a person they called “Prosecutor A”. Smith said to that person the FBI was investigating and asked Prosecutor A to create a fake consulting agreement for $20,000 paid in 2016. In exchange, Prosecutor A would keep $5,000 while Smith received the rest. Then federal prosecutors claim that Smith went on a walk with “Prosecutor B”, asking that person make the claim that they did research at Prosecutor A’s offices to justify the rent payments from the campaign account. According to the Free Press, the plea agreement didn’t say how the assistant prosecutors in this matter responded.
Schneider’s position is that former Prosecuting Attorney Eric Smith betrayed the public’s trust and should be sentenced to serve at least 15 months in federal prison. In a statement by Smith, the Free Press reported, (Smith wrote) “respects he must be held accountable for his misdeeds,”. With Smith adding, “Never did I trade justice for money or any other benefit. Let me be absolutely clear: The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office was never for sale under my watch. I acted irresponsibly and recklessly, and I will be held accountable for my actions.”
In the arraignment today by video link, Smith used short yes or no answers to questions by Judge Patti, when asked if he understood the conditions of his bond, Smith replied “absolutely”. The conditions of his bond will allow him to remain free; as long as he must surrender his CPL and any firearms in his home, submit to a drug test, and cannot leave the State of Michigan without permission of the court.
State Charges Against Smith & Other Alleged Misconduct In Macomb County’s Prosecutor’s Office
Eric Smith also faces charges by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, of using forfeiture money as a slush fund that went towards, gifts, moving expenses, office parties, country club events, a security system for his home, and “One Tough Prosecutor” inscribed pens. Forfeiture money is supposed to go towards law enforcement.
Smith resigned in March claiming he would “wholeheartedly defend” himself against the charges filed by the state. Smith’s chief of operations Derek Miller, and the former chief of operations Benjamin Liston are also on felony charges by Nessel for misconduct and other felony counts for misusing forfeiture funds as far back as 2012. The owner of Weber Security Systems, William Weber, is charged with aiding and abetting embezzlement charges. As he allegedly provided false invoices for almost $28,000.
© 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Information from the Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.