Macomb County Prosecutor And 3 Others Face Felony Charges

Lansing, MI - Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith and three other individuals have been charged with a litany of felony crimes including embezzlement, misconduct in office and conducting a criminal enterprise, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today.

Benjamin Liston, retired Macomb County assistant prosecutor and former chief of operations, as well as Derek Miller, the county’s current assistant prosecutor and chief of operations, and businessman William Weber also face charges. 

Nessel’s office today sought arrest warrants for four men following a year-long public integrity investigation involving the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit, the Michigan State Police and other agencies. Southfield’s 46th District Court Judge Cynthia Arvant was appointed by the State Court Administrator to sign the warrants after Macomb County 41B District Court judges recused themselves. 

Due to the public health emergency and the state’s stay-at-home order, Nessel issued a video today discussing the situation. 

“In order for citizens to maintain trust in the institutions of government, public officials must, at all times, conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of our state,” Nessel said. “When public officials fail to do so, the people must have confidence that they will be held to account, fairly, and without any special treatment based upon their status as a public official. The Department of Attorney General, will continue to work to protect this fundamental principle, that no one is above the law.” 

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

Smith faces 10 charges: 

  • 1 count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony; 
  • 1 count tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding – a four-year felony; 
  • 1 count accessory after the fact to Liston’s embezzlement by a public official – a five-year felony; 
  • 1 count conducting a criminal enterprise – a 20-year felony; 
  • 5 counts embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony – one count each for years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; and 
  • 1 count of conspiracy to commit forgery – a 14-year felony and a $10,000 additional fine. 
Liston faces four charges: 
  • 1 count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony; 
  • 1 count conducting a criminal enterprise – a 20-year felony; and 
  • 2 counts embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony – one count each for 2016 and 2017.  

Miller faces two charges: 

  • 1 count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony; and 
  • 1 count conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner – a five-year felony; 

Weber, the owner of Weber Security Group, faces four charges: 

  • 1 count forgery – a 14-year felony; 
  • 1 count larceny by conversion, $20,000 or more – a 10-year felony; 
  • 1 count aiding and abetting Smith’s embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony; and 
  • 1 count receiving and concealing stolen property – a 10-year felony. 
The Attorney General’s office, along with multiple agencies and the Michigan State Police, began an investigation 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. Asset forfeiture powers are to be used in a way that enhances public safety and security, not for personal enrichment. 

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. 

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. Those accounts are: Drug Forfeiture, Bad Check Restitution, OWI (Operating While under the Influence) Forfeiture, and Warren Drug Court. 

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

“I would like to thank the Michigan State Police along with their law enforcement partners for their diligent work throughout this investigation,” Nessel said. “I also commend the hardworking attorneys in our Public Integrity Unit, who continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to rebuilding public trust in our government. These combined efforts ensured a professional and thorough investigation built on integrity.” 

For Smith to be removed as Macomb County Prosecutor, it would either be a decision by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or through an action of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners and its chairman, Bob Smith, who is also Eric Smith’s brother.  

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