Former city police officer faces counts of embezzlement, obstruction

The Manistee City Police officer who resigned in July could soon be facing charges related to stealing money from a wallet.

The Benzie County Prosecutor’s Office signed a warrant Monday that lists a count of obstruction of justice and a count of embezzlement, less than $200.

The officer has not yet been arraigned on the charges and the News Advocate has a policy of not printing a suspect’s name until after the arraignment, which has to take place within 14 days after the warrant is signed.

Officials from the Benzie County Prosecutor’s Office said the arraignment — and other proceedings on the matter — will take place in Manistee’s court system. The case was sent up to Benzie’s chief assistant prosecutor Michelle Steffen to eliminate any conflicts of interest that could occur if the Manistee prosecutor were to deal with it.

Steffen told the News Advocate by phone that she cannot comment on active cases.

The felony charge, according to officials from the Benzie Prosecutor’s Officer, says that (the officer) did “commit the crime of obstruction of justice by taking money from an individual’s wallet when that wallet was in his possession pursuant to his duties as a peace officer.”

The embezzlement charge says that (the officer) did, “being an agent … of the Manistee City Police Department, take … with intent to convert to (the officer’s) own use without consent … money or personal property … having a value less than $200, that came into the defendant’s possession.”

The obstruction of justice count is a 5-year felony, or a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge of embezzlement carries a sentence of 93 days in jail, or a $500 fine, or three times the amount embezzled, whatever is higher.

The officer announced his resignation on July 21 amid a criminal investigation.

“I am saddened that (the officer’s) personal situation placed him in a position that caused him to do something that placed his profession and his personal freedom at risk,” said Dave Bachman, Manistee’s director of public safety.

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