LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith and Benjamin Liston, former Macomb County assistant prosecutor and chief of operations, were arraigned via video today in Macomb County 41B District Court on multiple felony charges including misconduct in office, embezzlement and conducting a criminal enterprise.
Judge Cynthia Arvant from Southfield's 46th District Court was assigned to preside over the cases after Macomb County judges recused themselves.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed charges Tuesday against Smith, Liston, current Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Derek Miller and businessman William Weber.
Smith was arraigned and released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, ordered to surrender his passport to the District 41B probation office within 48 hours and told not to leave the state. He was also directed to have no contact with co-defendants or witnesses involved in the case and to only interact with witnesses to the extent that it relates to the business of the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office.
He is scheduled for a probable cause conference at 8:30 a.m. April 3 and a preliminary exam at 8:30 a.m. April 9 in 41B District Court. The hearings may be done remotely.
Liston was arraigned and released on a $100,000 PR bond, ordered to surrender his passport to the District 41B probation office within 48 hours and told not to leave the state until at least April 9. He is also not to have any contact with co-defendants or witnesses.
Liston waived his probable cause conference and is scheduled for a preliminary exam at 8:30 a.m. April 9 in 41B District Court, which may also be done remotely.
The Attorney General's office, along with multiple agencies and the Michigan State Police, began an investigation after Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel filed a complaint with the office. In the complaint, Hackel called for an investigation into inappropriate use of forfeiture accounts, which is public money to be used for purposes of improving prosecution efforts and supporting victims, among other things.
Investigators estimate the total amount of money embezzled related to these crimes since 2012 to be around $600,000. Among other things, investigators found that defendants used the money to buy flowers and make-up for select secretaries, a security system for Smith's residence, garden benches for staffers' homes, country club catering for parties and campaign expenditures.
"This thorough investigation is due to the hard work of the professionals at the Michigan State Police, my office and other law enforcement agencies who place a high value on public trust," Attorney General Nessel said. "For government to work, public officials must be accountable to the people and there must be a relationship built on transparency and trust to protect the public from abuses of power."
Smith and Liston turned themselves in this morning at the Michigan State Police North Metro Post in Oak Park for arraignment.
Miller will be arraigned at a date to be determined.
Weber was arraigned Tuesday afternoon from the Michigan State Police North Metro Post via video in front of Judge Arvant. He was released on a $100,000 PR bond and ordered to have no contact with his co-defendants, surrender his passport to the District 41B probation office within 48 hours and not travel outside the state. Weber's probable cause conference has been scheduled for May 19.
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