MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith is facing a federal prison sentence after he admitted to stealing over $74,000 from his campaign fund through two different fraud schemes, officials said.
Smith, 53, of Macomb Township, pleaded guilty Wednesday (Jan. 27) to one count of obstruction of justice. He will pay $69,950 in restitution and faces an agreed-upon 21 months in federal prison, Local 4′s Rod Meloni has learned.
Officials said Smith admitted that he tried to get a friend and two assistant county prosecutors to make false statements to federal law enforcement officers and a federal grand jury during an investigation into his conduct.
FBI investigators found that Smith conducted two fraud schemes to take around $75,000 in cash from his political campaign fund to use for personal reasons, authorities said.
“Some may view Smith’s conviction as a reason to lack confidence in our elected officials or our prosecutors. But the opposite is true,” United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “This case shows that our system works. When there is a rare case where a law enforcement officer commits crimes, he or she will be held accountable. Smith’s case is that kind of case. No one is above the law in Michigan, and that includes those who enforce the law.”
When he learned about the investigation in 2019, Smith pressured three witnesses to lie to federal authorities on his behalf, officials said.
As part of the plea, Smith admitted to stealing over $74,000 from his campaign fund through two different fraud schemes.
In one scheme, Smith lied and said he was using funds to pay rent on office space for his re-election efforts, authorities said. In reality, he was writing dozens of fraudulent checks to a friend, totaling over $50,000, according to court records.
His friend would kick back cash from the checks to Smith for personal use, officials said.
In the second scheme, Smith wrote a check for $20,000 from the campaign fund to an assistant Macomb County prosecutor for “consulting” work, according to authorities. The assistant prosecutor cashed the check and gave Smith $15,000 for personal use, officials said.
“Any attempt to hinder a criminal investigation is a very serious matter,” said Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of FBI Detroit. “This case, a man who had taken an oath to uphold the law was actively encouraging others to break it. That Mr. Smith was unsuccessful in his attempt to undermine the investigation is a testament to the determination of the FBI to hold individuals accountable when they break the law.”
Obstruction of justice is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Smith is expected to be sentenced at noon April 27.