Plymouth —A former airport executive pleaded not guilty Thursday on charges that he allegedly defrauded the underfunded Wayne County retirement system.
Daniel Ogden Kerber appeared before District Court Judge Ronald Lowe on Thursday and was given a personal recognizance bond under the condition that he surrender his passport. Kerber will be allowed to return to his home in Florida where he has resided for five years. He still owns a house in Plymouth Township.
Kerber, 66, has been charged with one count of larceny by false pretenses over $100,000, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years, as well as a single count of larceny by conversion over $20,000, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.
He was arraigned Thursday morning at 35th District Court in Plymouth.
Kerber’s attorney and friend, Jamil Akhtar, declined to comment Thursday on the allegations, only saying he felt the connection made between his client and the mismanagement of the Wayne County retirement system was politically motivated.
“This has no effect on the mismanagement of the Wayne County pension plan,” he said.
Akhtar, who said he recently learned the charges against Kerber, also has excused himself from the case because he is a labor and employment attorney, not a criminal defense attorney.
But Lowe declined Akhtar’s request to reschedule upcoming court dates to give Kerber more time to find a new attorney. He returns to court for a probable cause hearing Dec. 18 and a preliminary exam Dec. 28.
“Those two dates are rock solid,” Lowe said. “(Kerber) better make sure an attorney is available on those dates.”
In July 2009, weeks before retiring as the chief operating officer with the Wayne County Airport Authority, Kerber was allowed to move from a defined-contribution pension plan to another that secured a pension, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
“When Kerber retired, he had a separation agreement that specified that his defined-contribution assets of $340,166, held by Prudential, would be transferred into the Wayne County Retirement System,” officials wrote. “In September 2009, Kerber retired and began receiving a monthly pension of $11,337.48.”
But authorities claim the Plymouth man violated his separation agreement when seeking a check for his defined-contribution pension plan funds from Prudential on April 27, 2011.
A county retirement system approved the request and on May 5, 2011, a check for $277,481.40, with income tax taken out, was deposited in Kerber’s credit union account, the prosecutor’s office said.
Retirement system officials learned about the issue in April and turned it over to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The county has been working to shore up its pension system while tending to a structural deficit. Its pension system is underfunded by $910.5 million, according to a recent actuarial report. The county has taken about $20 million from its general fund each year to bolster the pension plan.
“This case is the ultimate example of why the Wayne County Retirement System is not properly funded,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “The alleged facts in this case will show that the defendant’s greed allowed him to net hundreds of thousands of dollars he was not entitled to, all while he received over $11,000 a month in a pension from the county.”