Ex-chief, officers accused of taking money

Sept. 28, 2011 at 3:04 PM
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DETROIT, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- A former Michigan police chief and five detectives allegedly spent forfeited drug money on trips, prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol, officials say.

Ex-chief Michael St. Andre and the detectives of the Romulus Police Department in suburban Detroit are accused of spending more than $100,000 from the forfeited drug money, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.

St. Andre, who announced his retirement as chief Sept. 14, is accused of spending $75,000 from the fund for the purchase and operation of a tanning salon run by his wife Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre. The couple, both 50, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of misusing money.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy alleges the cash skimming began in January 2006 and continued through this month.

Worthy said officers falsified reports and put city funds into personal bank accounts.

St. Andre allegedly paid for airline tickets, rental cars and hotel stays for a female friend and her daughter, Worthy said.

Worthy said the investigation began in January 2009 after a "highly placed" police official asked Michigan State Police to investigate the department's use of drug-forfeiture funds.

Worthy said the charges grew out of the investigation into a "culture of corruption and greed at its core."

The five detectives, who worked in the department's Special Investigation Unit, have been suspended without pay.

Detectives Richard Balzer, 50, Richard Landry, 39, and Donald Hopkins, 38, face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty on charges that include conducting a criminal enterprise and conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise. Detectives Jeremy Channells, 35, and Larry Droege, 32, face up to five years if convicted on charges of misconduct in office.

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