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Ex-state trooper pleads guilty in embezzlement case

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A former state trooper has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $170,000 in salvage inspection fees over an 18-month period.

Seth Swanson, 31, of Royal Oak, pleaded guilty Tuesday before Oakland County Circuit Judge Wendy Potts to one count of embezzlement by a public official and one count of uttering and publishing false Secretary of State documents allowing issuance of good motor vehicle titles. Both offenses are felonies and Swanson will be sentenced Feb. 28.

The case arose from a joint investigation by the Michigan State Police, the FBI Detroit-Area Public Corruption Task Force, and the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit, according to a release Wednesday by State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“Police officers are entrusted with upholding the law, so it is especially disappointing when they are the ones that break it,” Schuette said. “This former officer is now seeing the consequences of his illegal actions. I want to thank the Michigan State Police and FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force for their hard work on this investigation.”

Schuette said between August 2014 and December 2015, Swanson, then a state trooper and a state-certified salvage vehicle inspector since 2011, falsified Michigan Secretary of State forms required for clean title and personally pocketed the cash fee instead of paying it over to state police. Michigan law earmarks a portion of this fee to fight auto thefts.

Swanson conducted 1,701 salvage vehicle inspections over a span of a year and a half, pocketing more than $170,000, while forging the necessary Secretary of State document for each. The form, once completed and signed by a certified police officer, permitted the holder to obtain a good and valid State of Michigan motor vehicle title for the subject vehicle.

According to state investigators, Swanson used the fees to pay off credit card debt, take vacations, have multiple plastic surgeries and make home improvements.

A salvage title is issued for a vehicle that has become a “distressed vehicle.” A vehicle with a salvage title cannot be plated or used on public roads until it is recertified by a specially trained police officer and retitled.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319