Attention Readers: Find Us in Your Mailbox Soon
With the coronavirus stats going in the right direction, all of us at C&G Newspapers look forward to resuming publication of the St. Clair Shores Sentinel and Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle on May 27th. All other C&G newspapers will begin publishing on June 10th (Advertiser-Times on June 24th). In the meantime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter.
 Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith arrives at the Michigan State Police Metro North Post in Oak Park the morning of March 27. Smith, of Macomb Township, was arraigned on 10 felony charges and released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith arrives at the Michigan State Police Metro North Post in Oak Park the morning of March 27. Smith, of Macomb Township, was arraigned on 10 felony charges and released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith arraigned on 10 felonies

Three others also face charges

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published March 27, 2020

 Four individuals were charged March 24 by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in connection to a Macomb County case. Three of the four have been arraigned at the Michigan State Police Metro North Post in Oak Park, seen here.

Four individuals were charged March 24 by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in connection to a Macomb County case. Three of the four have been arraigned at the Michigan State Police Metro North Post in Oak Park, seen here.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

Advertisement

“As Attorney General, I take no responsibility more seriously than protecting the public trust. The reason is simple: Without public trust, government fails. Without public trust, justice stands no chance against reckless abuses of power.” 

Dana Nessel, Michigan Attorney General

MACOMB COUNTY — Eric Smith and his office typically charge people with alleged crimes.

Not this time.

On March 24, the Macomb County prosecutor was charged with 10 felonies —  five counts of embezzlement by a public official, a 10-year felony, one count each for years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony; one count official misconduct in office, a five-year felony; one count of tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding, a four-year felony; one count of accessory after the fact to Benjamin Liston’s embezzlement by a public official, a five-year felony; and one count of conspiracy to commit forgery, a 14-year felony and a $10,000 additional fine.

Three other individuals were also charged in connection to the case ‒ Liston, a retired Macomb County assistant prosecutor and former chief of operations; Derek Miller, the county’s current assistant prosecutor and chief of operations; and businessman William Weber.

The 53-year-old Smith, of Macomb Township, along with Liston, reported to the Michigan State Police Metro North Post in Oak Park March 27 where they were fingerprinted and had mug shots taken. They were then arraigned via video before Southfield’s 46th District Court Judge Cynthia Arvant. Arvant was appointed by the State Court Administrator to sign the warrants after Macomb County 41-B District Court judges recused themselves.

Smith was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, ordered to surrender his passport to the 41-B District Court probation office within 48 hours, and told not to leave the state. He was also directed to have no contact with co-defendants or witnesses involved in the case and to only interact with witnesses to the extent that it relates to the business of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Smith is scheduled for a probable cause conference April 3 and a preliminary exam April 9 in 41-B District Court. 

As he walked into the post, Smith declined to comment to reporters.

After the arraignment, Smith’s co-counsel in this case, Martin Crandall, indicated Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges, which Crandall called “baseless, unfounded and politically-oriented.” 

When asked by a C&G Newspapers reporter what Smith’s charges say about the integrity of the prosecutor’s office, Crandall said Smith’s integrity speaks for himself.

“He’s been there 27 years and it’s an unblemished record,” he said. “He’s done a very good job.” 

Liston was also released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, ordered to surrender his passport to the 41-B District Court probation office within 48 hours and told not to leave the state until at least April 9. He is also not to have any contact with co-defendants or witnesses. 

Liston’s attorney David Griem said his client is innocent and called it a sad day. 

Liston, who lives in Arizona, waived his probable cause conference and is scheduled for a preliminary exam April 9 in 41-B District Court, which may be done remotely. 

Miller will be arraigned at a later date. 

Liston, 58, faces one count of official misconduct in office; one count of conducting a criminal enterprise; and two counts of embezzlement by a public official, one count each for 2016 and 2017.  

Miller, 36, is charged with one count of official misconduct in office; and one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, a five-year felony.

Weber, 38, of Macomb Township, is the owner of Weber Security Group, and was charged with one count of forgery – a 14-year felony; one count of larceny by conversion, $20,000 or more – a 10-year felony; one count of aiding and abetting Smith’s embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony; and one count of receiving and concealing stolen property – a 10-year felony.

Smith has been a member of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office since 1993, and became prosecutor in 2005.

Weber was arraigned March 24 and was released on a $100,000 bond and ordered to have no contact with his co-defendants, surrender his passport to probation within 48 hours, and not travel outside the state. Weber’s probable cause conference has been tentatively scheduled for May 19.

The charges, brought forth by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, are related to allegedly misusing county asset forfeiture funds.

They come after a year-long public integrity investigation involving the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit, the Michigan State Police and other agencies. 

In April 2019, Michigan State Police investigators removed records from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office in the Macomb County Administration Building in Mount Clemens.

Investigators estimate the total amount of money embezzled related to these crimes since 2012 to be around $600,000. 

“As Attorney General, I take no responsibility more seriously than protecting the public trust,” Nessel said in a March 24 video. “The reason is simple: Without public trust, government fails. Without public trust, justice stands no chance against reckless abuses of power.” 

On March 23, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement indicating that Smith has fully cooperated with the State Police investigation from day one. 

“Furthermore, I stand by my previous statements that these forfeiture funds were spent appropriately in accordance with the law,” Smith said.  

At a 2019 press conference after State Police executed a warrant in Mount Clemens, Smith said he was, “So happy to have impartial investigators” in the office, looking through documents. 

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be working with the Michigan State Police today,” Smith said at the time. 

A March 24 release from the Michigan Attorney General’s office states that the investigation began after Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel filed a complaint with the office.

“In the complaint, Hackel called for an investigation into inappropriate use of forfeiture accounts,” it states. “Asset forfeiture powers are to be used in a way that enhances public safety and security, not for personal enrichment.”

The release goes on to say that examples of proper asset forfeiture expenditures include victim restitution for check forgeries, prosecutor training, equipment like cell phones or fax machines to support prosecution efforts, and other programs for victims. 

“Investigators found that Smith and other defendants used the money to buy flowers and make-up for select secretaries, a security system for Smith’s residence, garden benches for staffers’ homes, country club catering for parties, campaign expenditures and more,” it states.

Under statute, forfeiture accounts are to be controlled by the county treasurer. 

“However, investigators found Smith had four accounts containing public monies he controlled without official county oversight,” the release states.

Those accounts are: drug forfeiture, bad check restitution, operating while under the influence forfeiture, and Warren drug court.

Court documents reveal that Smith and other persons in the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office utilized the four secreted accounts for Smith's personal benefit and the benefit of others chosen by him, including being used to procure gifts.

Investigators also determined that Weber provided false invoices totaling nearly $28,000 as part of the operation for the security system. 

Advertisement