3 Romulus cops plead no contest
Romulus — Three Romulus police officers pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges stemming from a police corruption case and will lose their certification to be employed in law enforcement.
According to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, pleas were submitted by Richard Balzer, Donald Hopkins and Richard Landry.
Balzer pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement by a public official and misconduct in office. Hopkins and Landry pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement by a public official. All remaining counts against the men were dismissed in return for the plea, prosecutors said.
Restitution will be determined and they will lose their certification to be employed as police officers.
Sentencing is Oct. 29 before Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Hathaway.
The case caps a three-year investigation by the Michigan State Police that resulted in dozens of charges. The former chief, his wife and the officers were accused of embezzling more than $100,000 in drug forfeiture funds and running a criminal enterprise from 2006-11.
In May, former Romulus police chief Michael St. Andre pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a public corruption investigation.
St. Andre pleaded guilty to one count of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, punishable by up to 20 years in prison; embezzlement by a public official, punishable by up to 10 years behind bars; and misconduct in office, punishable by up to five years in prison.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17 by Hathaway. His wife, Sandra Vlaz St. Andre, was sentenced in February to 7-20 years in prison.
Two other officers, Larry Droege and Jeremy Channels, were found guilty on related charges after a trial that ended in March. Channels was sentenced to three years of probation; Droege received 18 months of probation.
Prosecutors maintain the defendants pretended to be investigating the Landing Strip Bar in Romulus and Subi's Place in Southgate. The fraudulent probes, investigators allege, were a ruse for hiring prostitutes from nearby strip clubs and fabricating expenses for which they were later reimbursed.
In one year alone, the officers were accused of spending $40,000 in forfeiture funds on prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol, according to prosecutors. Michael St. Andre was accused of using $75,000 from the funds to pay for trips and to buy his wife a tanning salon business.