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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Proceedings Begin in Police Corruption Case

VAN BUREN TWP.: Preliminary examination begins in police corruption case 
The News-Herald by Jackie Harrison-Martin - April 27, 2012 

Southgate, MI — An aide for a former Romulus police chief who handled expenses testified Tuesday in a preliminary examination of the evidence against him, his wife and several detectives in a corruption case before 33rd District Judge James Kersten. The exam for former Police Chief Michael St. Andre; his wife, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre; Detective Sgt. Richard Balzer; and Detectives Richard Landry, Donald Hopkins, Jeremy Channells and Larry Droege, who face a collective 22 counts, is expected to last about three weeks. Joyce Clay, an administrative aide who handled expense reports for St. Andre, as well as the department’s special investigation unit, testified that the unit would keep about $2,500 on hand for officers’ expenses, but the amount rose under St. Andre to $10,000, according to published reports. She said she questioned how the department could go through cash so fast and was told they were having larger cases than they had been, reports said. Clay also said a good deal of money was spent on undercover operations and food, and other things such as oil changes. There were expense receipts for deposits under an assumed name for St. Ande and other officers, but the former chief’s attorney argued that the receipts did not prove that St. Andre was reimbursed. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office brought numerous charges against the former members of the department and St. Andre’s wife in September. Charges against the former chief include conducting a criminal enterprise, embezzlement, uttering and publishing, misconduct in office, obstruction of justice, witness bribery, intimidating and interfering in a case, and receiving and concealing stolen property. Charges against Vlaz-St. Andre include acquiring/maintaining a criminal enterprise, filing a false tax return and receiving and concealing stolen property. The counts against the St. Andres, Balzer, Landry and Hopkins include felony racketeering charges that carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Channells and Droege faced various felony charges, including misconduct in office and neglect of duty, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. According to the prosecutor’s office, it is alleged that those charged repeatedly made, or assisted others in making, material misrepresentations of fact in connection with expense reports they submitted in an effort to seek improper reimbursement. It also alleges that they created fraudulent documents to support improper expenditures of drug-forfeiture funds, obstructed justice, made false statements in police reports and ultimately misused city money for personal gain. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy released a statement at that time. “The alleged conduct of the former Romulus police chief, his wife and the five detectives in this case defines a culture of corruption and greed at its core,” she said. “This is not an indictment of the entire Romulus Police Department that has honest, hard-working officers who put their lives on the line to protect us each day.” Contact Staff Writer Jackie Harrison-Martin at 1-734-246-0837 or Follow her on Facebook and @JackieMartin22 on Twitter.

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