Former state employee and Farmington Hills resident sentenced for embezzlement

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published May 31, 2024

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FARMINGTON HILLS/WAYNE COUNTY — A former state employee was recently sentenced for misusing state vehicles for personal use.

On May 17, Rufus Chappell, 64, of Farmington Hills, was sentenced to three years probation and restitution in the amount of $47,214.85 to the Unemployment Insurance Agency after a jury found the former state of Michigan employee guilty of embezzlement in April.

The sentencing took place before Judge Mariam Bazzi at the 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County and was announced via a press release by the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

According to the release, for years Chappell misused state vehicles for personal use over weekends, holidays and outside business hours, racking up unauthorized vehicle usage and mileage fees totalling just over $47,000 between August 2015 and January 2019.

“He had access to and permission to use the state motor pool vehicles, explicitly for work purposes, by virtue of his employment as an unemployment examiner with the Talent Investment Agency under the Department of Talent and Economic Development, now known as the Unemployment Insurance Agency and Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, respectively,” the release states. “It was expected Chappell would use the state vehicles to attend unemployment insurance benefit appeal hearings.”

Upon learning Chappell’s driver’s license had been suspended, Vehicle and Travel Services and the Department of Talent and Economic Development investigated his vehicle use and uncovered “rampant and flagrant misuse.”

“Government workers must be held accountable when they steal from taxpayers,” Nessel stated via the release. “I applaud the UIA for investigating this matter and hope this sentence will serve as a deterrent to anyone who would embezzle state resources and promote the responsible use of taxpayer funds.”

The UIA’s director, Julia Dale, also weighed in.

“The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency will aggressively pursue anyone who breaks the law while working for the agency,” Dale stated via the release. “We expect staff to be models of ethical behavior. We won’t waver from our mission to serve Michigan’s residents with integrity and have put in place strict ethics policies for employees and contractors.”

Chappell’s felony conviction was for one count of embezzlement, $20,000 to $50,000, and had a maximum penalty of 10 years’ incarceration.

Chappell’s attorney declined to comment when reached by phone.