Former Michigan State Police trooper accused of pocketing more than $170,000 in fees

Seth Swanson faces embezzlement charge

By John Steckroth - Editor

MSP Trooper Seth Swanson

DETROIT - A former Michigan State Police Trooper was charged Wednesday following an investigation into his alleged improper salvage vehicle inspections.

Seth Swanson, 31, of Royal Oak, is charged with embezzlement by a public official more than $50 and uttering and publishing.

From the Michigan Attorney General’s Office:

Swanson allegedly pocketed $170,100 in vehicle fees and forged Secretary of State documentation concerning the inspections that insure a salvage vehicle has a clean title.  Swanson falsely certified he checked the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) to verify the Vehicle Information Numbers, or VINs, on the cars were not reported as stolen.

“Police officers are given great trust and responsibility, and for that reason are held to a higher standard,” said Schuette. “When you break the trust you are given and in the process break the law, there are consequences, no matter who you are or what your profession. I want to thank the Michigan State Police and FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force for their hard work on this investigation.”

Swanson was arraigned on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 before Chief Judge Michelle Appel of the 45-B District Court in Oak Park. Swanson was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. As a condition of bond, he also surrendered his CPL and passport. Swanson has waived his preliminary exam. His next court date is not yet set.

Case Background

Charges were filed against Swanson after an investigation revealed he allegedly falsified salvage vehicle inspections.

Salvage vehicle inspectors are instructed to collect a $100 cash fee that is remitted to the State of Michigan.

It is alleged that between August 2014 and December 2015, Swanson incorrectly filled out the necessary forms that ensure a clean title and pocketed the $100 cash fee from 1,701 vehicle inspections, totaling $170,100.

Swanson had been a state-certified salvage vehicle inspector since 2011.

As a result of the investigation, Swanson was suspended without pay effective Feb. 10, 2016.  He then resigned from the state police on Oct. 24, 2016.

Michigan Salvage Titles

A salvage title is issued for a vehicle that has become a "distressed vehicle.” A vehicle with a salvage title cannot be plated or used on public roads until it is recertified by a specially trained police officer and retitled.

The MSP and the Secretary of State will work together to ensure all vehicles involved in this case have a proper salvage vehicle inspection. This may involve directly contacting the registered owners of vehicles improperly inspected to arrange for a new inspection. The process of identifying affected vehicles is ongoing.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Swanson was hero in 2013 Detroit freeway pileup

Swanson was was among the first emergency responders at a chain-reaction wreck that killed three people on I-75 in 2013. 

"When I arrived on scene, it was just a mess," he said. "You could just see mangled cars everywhere."

After failing to find a pulse on two of them, he broke a window to reach the third.

The girl had a faint pulse and Swanson, who has been a trooper for four years, cleared her airway and administered three rescue breaths until she regained consciousness.

"Whatever miracle happened, it (the rescue breath) took and she took a really deep breath and came conscious," Swanson said. "Then she started feeling her injuries that she had sustained ... I held her head straight so it didn't move around. I was afraid of further injury to herself."

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