Much like a reckless poker player who eventually loses it all, Prosecutor Eric Smith stands accused of shameless cheating, becoming part of Macomb County’s four-of-a-kind who’ve faced criminal charges for betraying the taxpayers.

Among those who have held one of the five specified countywide elective offices in Macomb — prosecutor, sheriff, clerk, treasurer and public works commissioner — Smith stands as the fourth to face possible time behind bars after 10 criminal charges were handed down Tuesday.

This is not petty stuff. The prosecutor, supposed to serve as the top lawman in the county, is accused of Mafia-style misdeeds such as conducting a criminal enterprise, along with five counts of embezzlement and one count of tampering with evidence.

The Macomb Township Democrat is looking at up to 20 years in prison for allegedly operating an off-the-books “slush fund” from which Smith may have illegally used up to $1.8 million from financial penalties imposed on drug dealers and drunken drivers.

As a longtime county resident, I can only imagine the dismay Macomb folks feel over the continuing laundry list of felons and lawbreakers and scammers who’ve had public positions in our community.

Macomb’s four of a kind 

In addition to Smith, the four of a kind I’ve singled out include former sheriff Bill Hackel, who served time for rape; ex-clerk Karen Spranger, who was removed from office by a judge after a series of controversies and bizarre behavior and now faces charges of stealing nearly $1,700 from a 78-year-old woman; and former treasurer Derek Miller.

Now serving as Smith’s chief of operations, Miller also was indicted Tuesday by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for conspiracy and some minor offenses. It remains to be seen if Miller will face allegations in court that, while serving as treasurer four years ago, he looked the other way while Smith allegedly established an elaborate spending scheme.

In Macomb, we’ve had corrupt judges, school superintendents, city council and township board members, trash company executives, a millionaire businessman with government ties, and government contractors such as engineers and attorneys, but I suspect few counties anywhere can say that they have achieved our version of four of a kind. Add in the remaining wild card, former public works commissioner Tony Marrocco, and the county may make it five of a kind.

According to the Macomb Daily, the FBI’s ongoing corruption investigations uncovered allegations that Marrocco was regularly taking $5,000 bribes from the owner of an engineering firm. Known for many years as a kingmaker, “the godfather” of Macomb County politics, Marrocco lost his bid for re-election in 2016.

While Marrocco has not been charged, his right hand man at the public works office, Dino Bucci, is reportedly working with federal authorities on a deal that would reduce his sentence on multiple corruption convictions in exchange for sharing damaging information on his former boss.

Continue reading here.


This is an excerpt from a column I wrote for Deadline Detroit.