The owner of a Metro Detroit security company pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in connection with a Macomb County embezzlement case after agreeing to testify against former county prosecutor Eric Smith, who faces a list of corruption charges.
William Weber, who owns Weber Security Group located in Mount Clemens, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, a misdemeanor, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Weber was previously charged with the following:
- 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.
When pleading guilty Thursday, Nessel’s office says Weber confessed to “falsifying an invoice at Smith’s request for a security system installation at Smith’s residence to make it seem as though it was installed at the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.” Weber was reportedly asked to produce the false invoice after Smith was subpoenaed in a pending case.
Officials said Friday that Weber agreed to testify against Smith and his alleged misuse of county forfeiture funds.
In March of 2020, Smith was charged with 10 criminal corruption charges -- including running a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony -- following Nessel’s investigation into his handling of forfeiture funds, which were supposed to be used for specific police and law enforcement activities.
Michigan State Police raided Smith’s office in April of 2019, and then raided his home a month later in an effort to learn more about his alleged mishandling of about $900,000 from the forfeiture funds.
Smith is facing the following 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.
The former Macomb County Prosecutor is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary examination hearing on July 9.
In January of this year, Smith pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, admitting to stealing over $74,000 from his campaign fund through two different fraud schemes. He will pay $69,950 in restitution and faces an agreed-upon 21 months in federal prison.
Smith was first elected Macomb County’s prosecuting attorney in 2004. He gained recognition during the 2007 Tara Grant murder case. He resigned from the role in March of last year amid the investigation.
Though Weber has pleaded guilty, he will not be formally sentenced until after he testifies against Smith. Weber also agreed to pay, and did pay, nearly $24,000 in restitution, officials said.
“Our public servants must uphold the integrity of the offices in which they serve,” Nessel said Friday. “My Public Integrity Unit remains committed to ensuring accountability for those who break the public’s trust.”
Former Macomb County assistant prosecutor and chief of operations Benjamin Liston has also pleaded guilty to three counts of neglect of duty in the embezzlement scheme, lesser charges than he previously faced, officials said. He has also agreed to testify against Smith and will be sentenced after giving his testimony.
Current Macomb County assistant prosecutor and chief of operations Derek Miller has also been charged with one count of official misconduct in office and one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner in connection with the embezzlement investigation.
He is also scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary examination hearing on July 9.
Embezzlement case background
AG Nessel offered the following background into the embezzlement investigation in a press release last year:
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.
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.