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Ex-Macomb Co. clerk Spranger pleads no contest in theft case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Former Macomb County clerk Karen Spranger pleaded no contest Wednesday in a court case involving her allegedly stealing from a senior citizen for whom she acted as a caregiver.

Spranger was charged last year with one count of larceny over $1,000 but less than $20,000 — a felony. That charge was dismissed with her pleading to a lesser charge, disturbing the peace, records show.

The 68-year-old former official also must pay $1,660 in restitution.

A trial had been scheduled to start next month but was canceled. Judge Diane Druzinski set a review hearing for Sept. 10, but Spranger does not have to appear if she pays the restitution by then, according to court records.

The attorney listed as representing Spranger could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger in her arrest photo (May 2, 2019).

The case dates back to early 2019, when a 78-year-old woman told Warren police she believed Spranger had stolen from her. The resident said the ex-clerk had been living with her and acting as a caregiver until the pair argued over money missing from the victim's purse.

Police obtained footage they said showed Spranger making eight withdrawals at an ATM from the victim's account without her permission.

Following a tip, officers arrested her at a Tim Hortons in May 2019.

Court proceedings were delayed several times, including amid the COVID-19 pandemic, records show.

Spranger gained attention in 2016, when she won a surprise election as county clerk, a position that carried a $108,000 salary. The Republican, who had no previous experience in public office, frequently clashed with office staff and other county officials and faced a barrage of criticism and controversy. 

In 2018, Spranger was ousted after a St. Clair County judge ruled she had not been legally elected because she lied about her residency in pre-election filings. Spranger listed an address in Warren when filing to run for county clerk but an investigation showed she was not living there.

Her tenure also sparked a whistleblower lawsuit.