Feds: Ex-Detroit court officer pocketed debt payments

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — A former 36th District Court officer was charged Monday in a federal indictment for allegedly taking money meant to pay off individuals’ court debts but instead wound up in his pocket, according to a complaint unsealed Monday.

Federal authorities say Marlon Cleveland, who was employed from March 2013 through April 2014, was responsible for collecting money for debt collection companies through the court. But, federal prosecutors say, he pocketed the money for himself.

Cleveland took in more than $5,000 from people who thought they were paying money to the debt company. Instead, authorities say, Cleveland created an elaborate scheme that included having numerous individuals send their debt payments to a post office box in Redford he set up.

“Marlon Cleveland falsely represented that the payments would be applied to reduce or to satisfy civil judgments of the 36th District Court when in fact Cleveland wrongfully kept those payments himself,” reads the federal indictment against Cleveland.

The former court officer has been charged with theft and mail fraud. He was released on a $10,000 bond Monday. His arraignment date is Thursday.

In October 2013, Cleveland allegedly went to the home of a Detroit woman who owed a $1,912.67 judgment to a debt collection company and get about $1,400 for himself from her and a relative.

In another case, Cleveland is accused of going to the home of a Southfield woman, also in October 2013, who owed a judgment to a debt collection company. Cleveland allegedly took $900 from the woman for himself.

As a court officer, Cleveland was authorized to collect property and make arrests on behalf of the 36th District Court to satisfy civil judgments. He was issued a badge and also carried a personally-owned firearm to perform his duties, according to the complaint.

He was terminated from the court around April 11, 2014.

Cleveland’s indictment comes as court officials continue their reforms to improve the once-troubled city court that began two years ago. A report issued by the National Center for State Courts in 2013 once characterized the condition of the court as disastrous.

A court-appointed administrator was appointed to the court and last September it was returned to local control with a balanced budget.