By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
Nice work, if you can get it! The former police chief of Romulus, Michigan, along with his wife and five Romulus officers, on Tuesday were charged with using drug forfeiture money to pay for prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol.
The charges come after an investigation of almost three years by Michigan State Police, reports Steve Pardo and Serena Marina Daniels of The Detroit News. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the case had "a culture of corruption and greed at its core."
Former Police Chief Michael St. Andre, 50, faces 10 charges, including conducting a criminal enterprise and acquiring or maintaining a criminal enterprise. The chief could get up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
The chief's wife, Sandra Kay Vlaz-St. Andre, also faces up to 20 years for her part in the scheme. She was charged with acquiring or maintaining a criminal enterprise and conspiracy criminal enterprise.
"This is not an indictment of the entire Romulus Police Department that has honest, hard-working officers who put their lives on the line to protect us each day," claimed Worthy, despite the fact that five officers besides the chief were nailed.
"Although an investigation of this nature takes hundreds of hours of time, it is crucial that we charge defendants where we find them, even when it is a police department," said Captain Obvious, I mean Prosecutor Worthy.
The former chief directed a team from the Romulus Police Department's Special Investigation Unit as the looked into liquor violations, narcotics trafficking and prostitution at the Landing Strip Bar in Romulus and Subi's Place in Southgate from January 2010 until January 2011, according to Worthy.
The investigation was hidden from the supervisor of the special investigation unit, Worthy said. St. Andre had direct knowledge of the activities of Detectives Richard Balzer, Richard Landry (coupla Dicks, those guys), Donald Hopkins, Jeremy Channells and Larry Droege.
The police officers used drug forfeiture money to pay for prostitutes, marijuana, and alcohol, spending $40,000 in one year, Worthy said.
All of the other detectives involved also face up to 20 years in prison except for Channells and Droege, who each face up to five years on "misconduct in office" charges. (Could that mean they told on everyone else?)
In what must have been a priceless scene, Michigan State Police raided the Romulus police station. Talk about a Kodak moment! While they were at it, they raided St. Andre's home, his wife's tanning salon in Westland and other locations on March 15, seizing boxes of documents and other items.
The State Police investigation had been underway for more than two years when the raid finally occurred. St. Andre told The Detroit News after the raids that the investigation centered on the department's narcotics unit not paying informants properly.
St. Andre said he was the focus of the investigation, and took a leave of nearly seven weeks, returning at the end of April. After serving in the Romulus Police Department for 28 years, he announced his retirement two weeks ago.
"Being on this side of the investigation does take a lot out of you when you know you've done nothing wrong," whined St. Andre when he announced his retirement, reported Jonathan Oosting at mlive.com.
Dude never got that retirement party he might have been expecting. Tuesday, September 27 was supposed to have been St. Andre's last day at work, but he wasn't able to show up because his dumb cop ass was in jail.
Robert Dickerson, a 25-year Wayne County Sheriff's Department veteran, was named chief of police on September 19. City officials are now mouthing about the city "moving forward," which means that if any of the other officers were involved in the corruption, they're probably going to get away with it.
Four Romulus officers had been suspended last Thursday by Dickerson for acts that were "sexual in nature" while investigating allegations of prostitution at a local strip club, reported Click On Detroit.
"This had been an ongoing investigation for three years now," said Mayor Pro Tem Leroy Burcroff. "I'm glad there's been some action. Let's move forward. Now we can rebuild the department and put the pieces back together."
"This really has been a long, drawn-out, very dreadful, tiring time not only for the council for the citizens," said Councilwoman Eva Web. "Abuse of power is a serious thing. But my heart goes out to the spouses, the children, the families of these officers. I've known these officers for years and they always were respectful." Yeah, Eva, if you were on the City Council, maybe. Otherwise, not so much.
For a listing of charges against all seven defendants in the case, courtesy of reporter Jeff T. Wattrick, see mlive.com here.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.