Ex-Detroit court officer ordered to pay victims

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

He was sworn to uphold and to enforce the orders of the 36th District Court in Detroit.

Instead, Marlon Cleveland used his power and authority as court officer for the court to steal more than $55,000 from 30 civil litigants, authorities say.

And now, Cleveland must pay his victims every penny he stole.

U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain this week ordered Cleveland to pay $55,000.96 to 30 identified victims.

They include an elderly Detroit resident who gave him a $900 cashier’s check after Cleveland threatened to repossess her car and a Southfield woman who turned over $700 in cash after Cleveland said he had the power to break down her garage door and search her home.

On Dec. 10, Cleveland was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. The 34-year-old pleaded guilty in June to theft from a program receiving federal funds and mail fraud.

Federal authorities say Cleveland, who was employed from March 2013 through April 2014, was responsible for collecting money for debt collection companies through the court.

But, federal prosecutors say, he pocketed the money for himself.

Cleveland took money from people who thought they were paying money to the debt company. Instead, authorities say, Cleveland created an elaborate scheme that included having numerous individuals send their debt payments to a post office box in Redford he set up.

In some cases he went to people’s homes and threatened them to get money.

During the two years, Cleveland victimized more than 30 individuals and businesses by demanding that they make payments on outstanding court judgments and then keeping those funds for himself, prosecutors say.

As a court officer, Cleveland was authorized to collect property and make arrests to satisfy civil judgments.

He was issued a badge and also carried a personally owned firearm to perform his duties. He was terminated from the court around April 11, 2014.

Prosecutors said Cleveland stole month after month with no regard for his victims, many of whom were on fixed incomes and under economic pressure.

Bank records and store receipts show that Cleveland used the money to purchase furniture, buy movies and video games and make payments at a local jewelry store.

In some cases, victims tried to bring his acts to the attention of the 36th District Court.

“Marlon Cleveland’s solution was simple — he lied under oath,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Cleveland’s indictment came as court officials continued reforms started two years ago to improve the once-troubled city court.

A report issued by the National Center for State Courts in 2013 once characterized the condition of the court as disastrous.

An administrator was appointed to the court and, in September 2014, it was returned to local control with a balanced budget.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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