Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Municipal Official In Michigan Charged With Embezzling At Least $250K From Funeral Home

From the Lansing State Journal on 4/22/2013:

St. Johns official charged in embezzlement of more than $250K from funeral home
ST. JOHNS — A member of the St. Johns City Commission has been charged with embezzling more than $250,000 from a funeral home where he worked as a consultant.
David Hudgens, who was elected to the city commission in 2011, was arraigned Tuesday in Clinton County District Court on five counts of embezzlement. He faces up to 20 years in prison. His bond was set at $500,000.
Investigators say he embezzled the money over a six-year period from Osgood Funeral Home in St. Johns where he was employed as a funeral consultant.
Hudgens’ court-apppointed attorney, Ronald Zawacki, declined to comment. Hudgens, 52, said at the arraignment that his assets had been frozen and he could not afford an attorney.
A well-known business and civic leader, Hudgens is on the board of the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce and is a former president of the organization. He also holds a board position with the St. Johns Mint Festival Steering Committee.
Stan Willis, who owns the funeral home with his wife Bridget, said he went to the sheriff’s office and asked for an investigation last week after discovering discrepancies from pre-paid funeral accounts.
“I thought ‘this isn’t right’ and immediately took my suspicions to the police,” Willis said. He said he was shocked and felt betrayed as the investigation unfolded.
Hudgens was arrested Monday at the funeral home, said Clinton County Sheriff Det. Sgt. Sean Dush, who headed the investigation.
Willis said the funeral home will honor all pre-arrangements. The couple took over ownership of the funeral home in January. Bridget Willis is a member of the Osgood family which has owned the funeral home for more than 100 years.
Dush said the investigation is continuing, and may include bank accounts for local civic groups that Hudgens may have handled.
Dennis LaForest, St. Johns City Manager, said elected officials in the city do not have access to city finances.
“There are definite checks and balances in place to protect public funds,” LaForest said. “We are all shocked and saddened that this has happened, not only to a local business, but to the people of St. Johns.”
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 2. The hearing determines if there is enough evidence for Hudgens to stand trial.

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