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Eric Smith, Former Macomb County Prosecutor, Sentenced on Three Felonies
September 13, 2023
LANSING - Today, former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, 56, was sentenced by Judge Nanci Grant on three felony counts to 12 months incarceration. This sentence is to be served concurrently with a 21-month federal sentence Smith has been serving since June of 2022, when he pled guilty to Attempting to Obstruct Justice. Smith was additionally sentenced to 4 years of probation, 750 hours of community service, forfeiture of his public pension, restitution in the amount of $25,000, a fine of $8,000 for official misconduct, and other various fines and costs. Smith admitted to misusing public funds, thereby acting with corrupt intent in the exercise of his office as the elected Macomb County Prosecutor, before the court in August when he pled guilty to the following charges:
- One count of Official Misconduct in Office;
- One count of Tampering with Evidence in a Civil Proceeding; and
- One count of Conspiracy to Commit Forgery.
“No one is above the law, regardless of what office they serve. The former Prosecutor severely abused his position of power,” said Nessel at the time of Smith’s plea. “Those charged with upholding the law should be held to the highest ethical standards.”
Smith began working in the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office in 1993, was first elected Prosecutor in 2004, and resigned as Prosecutor in March 2020 following criminal charges filed by the Attorney General. Under Smith’s plea a $25,000 restitution order was entered by the Court today, payment will go to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office’s Drug Forfeiture account and the Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) Forfeiture account. Pursuant to the sentencing memorandum filed by the Department, the Court also ordered forfeiture of the maximum allowable portion of Smith’s pension under the Public Employee Retirement Benefits Forfeiture Act. The Court had previously ordered Smith’s pension be frozen at the Attorney General’s request.
The Attorney General filed a sentencing memorandum in this case seeking the maximum allowable forfeiture of Smith’s public pension. The Public Employee Retirement Benefits Forfeiture Act allows for only the forfeiture of pension benefits accrued after the first act that resulted in felony conviction. The earliest act for which Smith admitted guilt occurred March 24th, 2014, and as such, the forfeiture act is triggered from this date and Michigan criminal law does not allow for more extensive forfeiture.
“That Eric Smith is allowed to retain any portion of his pension after so egregiously violating the public trust for many years is striking evidence that the law on this matter is badly inadequate to address the scope of Smith’s crimes,” said Nessel today. “I would encourage our legislative partners to revisit the statute that has limited our prosecutorial ability to remove the full pension benefits of such a prolific thief of public dollars and public trust. I am grateful for the work of Michigan State Police and my department’s Public Integrity Unit for holding Smith accountable for his crimes and ensuring his removal from office so that he may no longer prey on public funds.”
This case followed a year-long investigation by the Michigan State Police and other agencies, and a three-year prosecution by the Attorney General's Public Integrity Unit. The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. In the complaint, Hackel called for an investigation into inappropriate use of forfeiture accounts. 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 were: Drug Forfeiture, Bad Check Restitution, OWI Forfeiture, and Warren Drug Court.
Three other co-defendants have been convicted in this matter. Derrick Miller, 39, pled guilty in 2022 to a Public Official Refusing or Neglecting to Account for County Money, a misdemeanor, as part of the scheme with Smith to hide the accounts and the related spending from County Officials. Ben Liston, 61, the former Macomb County chief assistant prosecutor, pled guilty in 2020 to three misdemeanor charges of Willful Neglect of Duty by a Public Officer holding a public trust. Liston, under his plea agreement, relinquished his law license, was ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution for his crimes, and will serve two months in jail. William Weber, 42, a private contractor, falsified an invoice to misrepresent a security system installation as having been for a county property when it had in fact been installed at the Smith residence. This equipment included an upgraded home Wi-Fi system and a sump-pump monitoring system, both paid for by the Drug Forfeiture Account. He pled guilty in 2021 to a misdemeanor charge of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner. Weber was ordered to pay $23,960 in restitution to the County. Under their plea agreements, all three co-defendants agreed to testify against Smith.