Smith promises to cooperate after state police search offices
Mount Clemens — Michigan State Police Wednesday morning executed a search warrant at the office of Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, officials confirmed.
Michigan State Police Lt. Darren Green, a spokesman for the agency's First District, confirmed troopers executed the warrant as part of the investigation into the prosecutor's use of forfeiture funds.
The FBI also is conducting an investigation into Smith's spending of the asset forfeiture funds, The Detroit News has learned.
"The First District Special Investigations Section out of Lansing was requested by the Michigan Attorney General's Office to start this investigation," Green said. "This search warrant is part of a continuing investigation into Prosecutor Smith and his use of the Macomb County forfeiture funds."
He also said: "Smith is a highly public official, and we want to afford him the same rights we would anybody else; and our standard procedure is to not comment further on ongoing investigations or release information that could affect the investigation."
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Smith said his office fully cooperated with investigators.
"I will continue to be cooperative and assist in any way so state police can swiftly conduct their investigation and have this matter fully laid to rest," Smith said to reporters at his office.
Smith said while the situation is unfortunate, he's supportive of having state police investigating because his office has "nothing to hide."
"I recognize that this doesn't look great, but after six months of hearing all these falsehoods in the press about what we've been using this money for, I'm so happy to have impartial investigators in our office, looking through our documents, which we gave them a banker's box full of receipts and explanations on how the money was spent," Smith said.
A Detroit News review in January of hundreds of checks that have passed through the forfeiture account in the past two years indicate that many sizable checks were made out to various Macomb County police agencies that are supposed to share in forfeiture funds stemming from arrests in their jurisdictions.
Smith declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday but said investigators only raided the office and investigators did not visit his home. He further stated that they provided records of all the checks.
"We are happy about this," Smith said as he exited.
Earlier this month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked the state police to investigate Smith's handling of asset forfeiture funds.
Questions over spending from the funds, which total hundreds of thousands of dollars, were raised earlier this year after Jared Maynard, the former chairman of the Macomb County Republican Party, sued to obtain bank records for accounts set up by Smith.
The funds in the accounts come from forfeitures and bad checks.
Smith has said he would cooperate with the state inquiry.
The investigation was sparked by questions raised last month by County Executive Mark Hackel about whether thousands of dollars were misspent on inappropriate expenditures, including donations to churches and charities, trips, parties and even the filming of a television commercial.
Hackel was not immediately available Wednesday and a spokesperson declined to comment. Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka, with offices on the eighth floor of the county building, said he had not been contacted by either state police or the prosecutor’s office.
“There has been a lot of interest by employees, but we have not been advised about what this is about,” Schapka said.
The investigation involves the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in a county targeted in a wide-ranging crackdown on public corruption that started in Macomb County and spread to Detroit. The investigation has led to charges against 22 people, including Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland.
Leland was among more than a dozen businessmen and politicians targeted in a wave of FBI wiretaps three years ago that recorded conversations involving public officials, including former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, who has not been charged.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
A source familiar with the investigation confirmed the FBI is looking into the spending of asset forfeiture funds and is working with investigators from the state police.
The FBI has several task forces that consist of investigators from the state police, county sheriff's offices and local police departments.
Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed.