Former Hazel Park detective pleads guilty to embezzlement

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 10, 2022

 Sean Boucher

Sean Boucher

HAZEL PARK — A former Hazel Park police detective has pleaded guilty to embezzlement after being accused of abusing his position at the Hazel Park Police Department to steal public asset forfeiture funds.

The development came Dec. 21, in Oakland County Circuit Court, when the former officer — Sean Boucher, of Warren — pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a public official totaling $50 or more, a 10-year felony.

Boucher paid $68,220 in restitution as part of the plea agreement. He also lost his certification for MICOLES — the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. Other terms will be set in the coming weeks, with sentencing currently set for Feb. 22.

A message seeking comment was left with Boucher’s attorney, Paul Tylenda. He did not respond by press time.

Boucher was originally arraigned on Feb. 18 in Ferndale’s 43rd District Court on a felony charge of conducting a criminal enterprise, punishable by 20 years in prison and/or $100,000; embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison and/or $25,000, or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater; and five counts of embezzlement by a public official of more than $50, the 10-year felony to which he pleaded guilty.

Boucher had turned himself in at the Michigan State Police North Metro Post in Oak Park the morning prior to his arraignment.

Authorities say that Boucher embezzled roughly $68,000 in public asset forfeiture funds over the course of several incidents between 2013 and 2017. State law allows for the seizure of funds and property that were used during or connected to criminal activity. The public asset forfeiture funds are meant to support future law enforcement operations, paying for training, equipment and more.

“Mr. Boucher allegedly stole from the city of Hazel Park and its citizens, depriving them of needed projects and public services,” Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said in a statement at the time of Boucher’s arraignment. “Make no mistake, any public servant who exploits his position of trust to enrich himself will be held accountable.”

Boucher was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 11, 2017, by the Hazel Park Police Department and suspended the following day; he then resigned Sept. 15, 2017. At the time he was an 18-year veteran of the department, assigned to the detective bureau.

Back then, Martin Barner was the police chief. He previously said that the suspect, who was unidentified at the time as the investigation commenced, was in charge of managing non-drug forfeitures such as vehicles used in the commission of non-drug-related crimes like retail fraud or drunken driving accidents. Barner had been conducting an internal audit when he noticed inconsistencies in the numbers dating back years.

“This is what it comes down to — it comes down to what’s right and what’s wrong,” Barner said previously. “And I don’t care if you’re an officer, the president, the pope, a homeless person, whatever — what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are consequences for your actions.

“People ask me how I feel,” Barner said at the time. “It makes me feel like it should make anyone feel: betrayed.”

On Dec. 28, the current Hazel Park police chief, Brian Buchholz, shared his thoughts.

“To say that the members of the Police Department are upset would be an understatement,” Buchholz said in an email. “He was in that position because he was a respected member of the department for a long time. He broke the trust and oath that we take to do this job. He fooled us all. We have to put trust in each other every day to do this job, so we feel betrayed immensely.

“I want the people in the community to know that his actions should in no way be a reflection of the members of this department who serve this city with honor and integrity every day,” he continued. “We hope some justice will be served at sentencing.”