Schuette Wins $138,000 Judgment Against Nneka Cheeks for Diverting Funds from Manoogian Mansion Charity
General Bill Schuette today announced
that Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Dragunchuk has
entered a formal default judgment
former City of Detroit mayoral employee accused of diverting thousands in
charitable funds for her own personal use. The formal default judgment entered
late yesterday, finds that Nneka Kafi Cheeks, 40, of Livonia, "wrongfully
converted no less than $34,524.27" in charitable funds from the Manoogian
Mansion Restoration Society for her own expenses. The judgment orders Cheeks to
return the money, with interest, and to pay damages in the amount of triple the
sum she wrongfully diverted, for a total liability of $138,866.33.
"Charitable organizations are not to be used as a piggy bank for
said Schuette. "This should send a clear message: If you break the law, there
will be consequences."
now pay restitution and damages to the Society, now known as the Mayoral
Residence Society. The charity
was established in 1994 to assist the City of Detroit in restoring, furnishing,
and preserving the Manoogian Mansion. The judgment entitles the Society, the
victim of Cheeks' actions, to pursue Cheeks for payment.
The Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section filed the civil
complaint against Cheeks in August 2010. The complaint asked the court to order
Cheeks to account for the funds she handled, to return the money, and to pay
damages in the amount of triple the sum she wrongfully diverted as provided
under Michigan law (MCL 600.2919a).
Cheeks acknowledged receiving notice of the Attorney General's complaint, she
failed to appear individually or through her attorneys to defend the lawsuit.
to today's civil judgment, Cheeks currently faces criminal charges filed on
April 28, 2011 by Schuette's Public Integrity Unit. The charges allege that an
investigation by the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section and Criminal
Division revealed that Cheeks, while employed with the City of Detroit Mayor's
office, had access to the Manoogian Mansion Restoration Society's bank account
and embezzled more than $19,000 of the Society's charitable assets between 2007
and 2009. Schuette alleges that Cheeks
wrongfully exploited the charity for her own private financial benefit.
expenses addressed in the criminal case include:
$1,140 to Brides Made Fit for in-home
personal fitness training;
$450 to Dr. Mok's Allure Medical Spa for
cosmetic injection treatment;
$3,590 in payments to The Roostertail
restaurant for Cheeks' wedding reception;
$2,619.08 to Jewelry Factory in Livonia for
$3,943.40 to Pioneer Credit
Recovery to pay off a relative's debt;
$3,091.95 to Art Van Furniture
for living room and dining room furniture;
$1,300 to Michigan Veterinary
Specialists for the care of Cheeks' dog, Trouble, and;
$4,025 in cash withdrawals.
Cheeks is charged with:
One count of Conducting Criminal Enterprises
(Racketeering), a 20-year felony;
Seven counts of Embezzlement from a Charitable
Organization - $1,000 - $20,000, a ten-year felony, and;
One count of Embezzlement from a Charitable
Organization - $200 - $1,000, a five-year felony.
arraigned on the criminal charges and released on a $25,000 personal bond on
April 29, 2011. She will next appear in 36th District Court for a
preliminary examination on a date to be scheduled by the Court.
office, Schuette announced the creation of the Public Integrity Unit (PIU).
Since then, 52 criminal charges have been filed against individuals holding
positions of public trust, including state and local government officials.
charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless