The state Attorney General’s Office has suspended Cecil St. Pierre, the Warren City Council president, for legal maneuvers he pulled as a “public administrator” in Macomb County Probate Court, according to a report aired by WXYZ-TV.
The Channel 7 news story indicated that Attorney General Bill Schuette’s staff launched an investigation of St. Pierre, a longtime attorney, and confirmed prior reporting by the WXYZ station that several people had filed complaints about St. Pierre, alleging that he profits from the deceased who had not set up an estate.
In his role as an AG-appointed Probate Court public administrator, St. Pierre, who also serves as chairman of the 9th Congressional District Republicans, has been suspended indefinitely.
St. Pierre told Channel 7 that he voluntarily stopped handling cases where a deceased person’s assets were unclaimed. He said he “made a business decision not to do ‘probate asset recovery’ files prior to the suspension. I have followed ‘best practices’ and everything I have done has been approved by the probate judge and court. I have been informed about the suspension.”
Real estate broker Ralph Roberts teamed up with St. Pierre and an Oakland County public administrator to take advantage of a provision in state law that says a public administrator can create an estate 42 days after a death if no heirs of the deceased are known. The public administrator then controls the assets, including any homes owned by the deceased.
St. Pierre and a Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars in fees, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes, according to Channel 7.
Roberts and St. Pierre, who ran for Macomb County probate judge a number of years ago, both claim they have done nothing wrong. At the same time, two Oakland County officials have labeled them “predators.”
County Clerk Lisa Brown and county Treasurer Andy Meisner are lobbying for a change in the law that would close perceived loopholes.
The current statute was designed for estates where there are no heirs available. But in case after case, Channel 7’s Heather Catallo reported, legal experts say public administrators are creating estates while legitimate heirs have been left in the dark
“What effort was put into the notice? These guys… it kind of seems like they’re opening their window and saying hey — are you out there?” said Meisner.
Meisner and Brown seek legislative remedies that would include civil and criminal penalties for public administrators who make little effort to track down heirs.
In her initial report on allegations last November that Roberts and St. Pierre were cashing in with these probate estates, Channel 7’s Heather Catallo offered this little gem:
Moments after (a) court hearing last week, I asked Cecil St. Pierre why he’s using a private company’s money to open so many estates.
“I deal with Probate Asset Recovery because they work with Ralph Roberts Realty in order to sell the house on the multi-list and get the top dollar for the asset …” said St. Pierre.
“Well of course they work with Ralph Roberts Realty – they’re owned by the same person,” said 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.
“I don’t know – I don’t know who owns PAR,” said St. Pierre.
But the PAR manager had just admitted that Roberts is the owner in court, with St. Pierre present.
In fact, St. Pierre and Roberts go way back – all the way to middle school – and they even once owned property together.
“I’m very fortunate to have Cecil as one of my best friends,” said Roberts.