Prosecutor: Aretha Franklin suspected $178K theft
Bloomfield Township – Did someone rip off legendary singer Aretha Franklin for $178,000 just weeks before her death last summer?
Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said Friday there has been an active investigation that may have come to a standstill due to Franklin's death Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.
“In June 2018, she filed a complaint with the Bloomfield Township Police that one of her checks was missing and believed stolen,” Walton said. “But unfortunately with her death, it is difficult to determine whether she actually passed it on to someone else who had the permission and authority to cash it.
“It may take more evidence or someone coming forward with more information about the transaction,” said Walton, who provided that assessment to township police on Thursday regarding his office’s review of the investigation for possible criminal charge.
"I would presume there is a chance that someone in the estate may pursue this as well,” he said.
No one was available Friday at the Bloomfield Township Police Department to discuss the case.
The check in question, made out for $178,000, was endorsed at a bank in Oakland County and police have talked with the person who is believed to have had possession of the check and made the transaction, Walton said. He declined to name the person or provide any details of the person's relationship — if any — to Franklin.
Franklin, who left an estate estimated at $80 million but no will, had a history of mismanaging her finances, according to published reports and those who knew her well, including the estate's attorney, David Bennett.
The Internal Revenue Service claimed in two December court filings that Franklin's estate owed $6.3 million in unpaid income taxes. At the time, Bennett told The Detroit News that the estate had paid the IRS at least $3 million.
Bennett, who was not immediately available to comment Friday, said in December that Franklin always made good on her debts but tended not to immediately cash checks.
“She had a lot of checks lying around that she had never cashed,” Bennett said. “I had to have some of them reissued because they were so old. I don’t know why she didn’t cash them but it seems that the IRS figures some of it as undeclared income and are going after it.”
In addition, last month, Bloomfield Township police said they were investigating a reported theft from Franklin's home there.
Franklin is survived by four adult children who will share in her estate, a fortune that is growing with untold sales and royalties still to come.