Ex-Romulus police chief sent to prison for corruption

Oralandar Brand-Williams; The Detroit News

Detroit – — Former Romulus police chief Michael St. Andre was sentenced Friday to 5 to 20 years behind bars for his role in a wide-ranging police corruption case involving himself and five officers in the department.

The seventh defendant in the case is St. Andre’s wife, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre, who was sentenced in February to 7-20 years in prison.

Michael St. Andre was given the lengthy prison sentence for embezzlement by a public officials and misconduct in office. He also received 5 to 10 years for conspiracy to commit a continuing criminal enterprise and 2 to 5 years for misconduct in office. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Last week, three Romulus police officers — Richard Balzer, Donald Hopkins and Richard Landry — pleaded no contest to charges in the corruption case. As part of their plea deal, they will lose their law enforcement certification, ending their careers as police officers.

Balzer pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement by a public official and misconduct in office. Hopkins and Landry pleaded no contest to embezzlement by a public official. Remaining counts against the men were dismissed in return for their pleas, prosecutors said.

Restitution will be determined.

The police officers will be sentenced Oct. 29 before Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Hathaway.

The case involved a three-year long investigation by the Michigan State Police that resulted in dozens of charges against the seven defendants.

Michael St. Andre, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre and the officers were accused of embezzling more than $100,000 in drug forfeiture funds and running a criminal enterprise from 2006-11. The charges also included submitting phony work-related expense reports, which the officers are accused of submitting to receive money for their personal use.

Michael St. Andre pleaded guilty in May. Two other officers, Larry Droege and Jeremy Channels, were found guilty on related charges. 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 club.


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Detroit News staff writer Jennifer Chambers contributed.