Credit union embezzle suspect’s property up for sale

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Clarkston — A chief financial officer who allegedly embezzled $20 million from a credit union appeared in court Tuesday as his lawyer said property bought with the money was to be sold to begin paying back the financial institution.

Michael A. LaJoice, 36, of Tyrone Township waived his right to a preliminary examination during a brief hearing in Clarkston 52-2nd District before Judge Joseph G. Fabrizio. LaJoice is charged with 14 counts of embezzlement over $100,000 from the Clarkston Brandon Community Credit Union between October and December 2015.

“This isn’t a ‘whodunit’ — my client has accepted responsibility and wants to do everything he can to have funds returned to the credit union,” Michael Manley, LaJoice’s attorney, told The Detroit News.

Investigators have tracked the withdrawal of about $2.5 million in credit union funds since June that correspond with LaJoice’s purchases of a boarded-up store and laundromat, four houses and a commercial building in Fenton where he planned a six-story $31-million mixed-use project.

Manley said liens are on all of LaJoice’s properties, including a customized home on which he is believed to have spent $3 million in enhancements and furnishings.

“We have already lined up prospective cash buyers for most of them.”

More than $800,000 in LaJoice savings accounts have been frozen in seven banks.

Manley said he is working with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the state of Michigan and the National Credit Union Administration — which has been appointed the conservator of the credit union. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are also looking into the case. Manley said he was recently contacted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has launched its own investigation.

Authorities said LaJoice walked into the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 6 and admitted taking $20 million from the credit union over a 12-year period.

Sheriff’s detectives have pored over credit union records. It is believed LaJoice — a married father of three children with no criminal history — created bogus paperwork and phony investment documents to cover up the theft.

LaJoice, who recently passed a mental competency hearing at the State Center for Forensic Psychiatry, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Manley requested the mental competency exam because he had concerns about LaJoice’s ability to understand the charges and to aid in his defense. “That is no longer a question,” Manley said Tuesday outside court.

LaJoice remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bond. The case is assigned to Oakland Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews.