Monday, March 9, 2015

Local County Commissioner In Michigan Pleads Guilty To Embezzling More Than $100K From County Agencies

From The Herald-Palladium on 3/7/2015:

Berrien County Commissioner Robert Wooley on Friday pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges, admitting he stole more than $100,000 from the senior citizen center he directed and a smaller amount from a fire department.

Wooley is free on bond pending sentencing April 20 in Berrien County Trial Court.
After appearing in court for a case conference, he pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement by agent or trustee over $100,000, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

He further pleaded guilty to attempted embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000, a five-year felony.
The plea was accepted by Judge Sterling Schrock, who asked Wooley a series of questions to establish a factual basis.
The 62-year-old Coloma resident admitted that he embezzled more than $100,000 from the North Berrien Senior Center while serving as director from 2007 to August 2014.
He further told the court he converted more than $20,000 but less than $50,000 to his own use by writing checks to himself while serving the North Berrien Fire Rescue Department as a board member and part-time bookkeeper from 2011 to 2014.
With the guilty plea, Wooley loses his seat on the county Board of Commissioners, a position he has held for 16 years. The county board has scheduled a special meeting for 3 p.m. Monday to acknowledge the vacancy and establish the procedure to appoint someone to fill it.
Wooley represented the county board's 1st District, which covers the northern portion of the county.
After being charged with the senior center embezzlement, Wooley continued to fulfill his responsibilities as a county commissioner, attending meetings as recently as Thursday.
Following Friday's court session, Wooley's lawyer, Andrew Burch, said his client used the embezzled money for gambling, and at one point he attempted to win enough to repay what was taken.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Smith said that under terms of a plea agreement, the original charge of embezzlement from the fire board was reduced to attempt. Also, the prosecutor's office agreed not to file any additional charges stemming from either case.
Wooley, in addition to pleading guilty to the two charges, agreed to pay restitution.
He was charged in December with embezzling money from the senior center, where he served as director since 1996.
Prosecutor Michael Sepic said at the time the charge was filed that about $150,000 was taken over seven years from the senior center at 6648 Ryno Road in Coloma.
A state police investigation began in January 2014 after a financial institution reported questionable transfers of money into Wooley's account.
Wooley transferred money periodically from senior center accounts to an investment account, police said. He then regularly moved funds from the investment account into his personal account.
Shortly after the charge was filed, the fire board discovered through an audit several financial irregularities, including checks that appeared to have forged signatures.
Wooley resigned his position on the fire board and police began an investigation.
The charge involving embezzlement of money from the fire board was recently authorized by the prosecutor's office. Wooley had not been arraigned on the charge when he appeared in court Friday, but waived his right to a preliminary hearing before pleading guilty.

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