When Michigan State Police investigators removed and confiscated security camera equipment from Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith’s home during a raid on Tuesday, political observers and news reporters wondered how that fit in with the widening criminal investigation of the county’s top lawman.
The answer lies right there in the pages and pages of documents outlining how the prosecutor spent some of the $1.8 million in “off the books” forfeiture funds that he has controlled over the past several years. Smith paid approximately $161,000 in county money, handed out under quite peculiar circumstances, to a Mount Clemens security company.
Amid all the chatter about Smith allegedly misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars, speculation at this point among county officials is that some of those checks written to Weber Security Group Inc. may have paid for the security system at Smith’s luxurious Macomb Township home.
Otherwise, why did the state police confiscate the entire home security system rather that engaging in typical protocol regarding a search warrant by simply seizing surveillance tapes recorded by those cameras?
The state police aren’t talking. Smith avoided reporters hanging out in his driveway on Tuesday. But the documentation that has been made public so far presents numerous questions about why Smith quietly sent so many large checks to Weber Security over a 5-year period, from 2012-17.
The prosecutor has said that the firm was hired to install security cameras and a key-fob entry system in the three floors occupied by the Prosecutor’s Office at the county Administration Building, located in downtown Mount Clemens.
But in late 2015 the county completed long-awaited renovations and upgrades to the Administration Building. Why didn’t Smith take the logical step of including his plans for greater security within the long list of remodeling projects for county buildings? Why did he not seek competitive bids or write up a contract outlining the security measures sought?
Instead, he relied on forfeiture funds, which are derived from cash and assets seized from suspected drug dealers and repeat drunken drivers. By state law, that money is supposed to assist law enforcement activities. Instead, records show that Smith spent a large portion of the money on an array of strange spending activities that make it look like he treated the money as his personal slush fund.
Even one of Smith’s closest political allies, fellow Democrat and County Executive Mark Hackel, has questioned publicly why the prosecutor didn’t submit the spending records for review by the county treasurer and the Board of Commissioners. Hackel asked state Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate and Nessel turned her initial probe over to the state police.
In addition to the criminal investigation, which included a dramatic raid of Smith’s offices last month, the state police have taken over a forensic audit of the forfeiture funds that was contracted out to an outside accounting firm by county officials. What’s more, the FBI has reportedly taken an interest in Smith’s spending habits.
The prosecutor has insisted he is innocent and, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Smith said he will “fully cooperate” with every aspect of the state police investigation.
Yet, the pattern of purchases by Smith clearly begs for more information, and certainly must have raised some eyebrows among police investigators.
For example, here is a partial list of the checks that Smith wrote to Weber Security:
June 26, 2012 – $21,500
Aug. 27, 2012 – $7,000
Oct. 4, 2012 – $7,009
Oct. 23, 2012 – $10,800
June 2, 2015 – $1,382
Nov. 2, 2016 – $20,000
March 3, 2017 – $18,978
April 3, 2017 – $10,000
June 5, 2017 – $17,899
July 14, 2017 – $20,000
Sept. 5, 2017 – $10,000
Oct. 2, 2017 – $10,000
The obvious question: Who spends huge amounts of money like this, in such a random pattern, over such a long time, for office security cameras and electronic door locks?
Photo of raid: Fox2 screenshot