Ex-Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, Wife Charged With Embezzlement

Lee Chatfield, the former Speaker of the Michigan House, has been accused of stealing money from both public and private sources. The money was allegedly used to fund a luxurious lifestyle, including expensive meals, fancy hotels, and trips to exotic places. Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday that Chatfield and his wife, Stephanie, are facing felony charges for these actions.

Chatfield, aged 35, was a leader of the majority party at the state Capitol from 2019 to 2020. He has been charged with 13 counts of embezzlement, conspiracy, and larceny in East Lansing district court, according to Nessel’s announcement at a news conference.

The most serious charge, conducting a criminal enterprise, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Lee Chatfield is the only person charged with that crime.

According to Nessel, Chatfield’s wife is accused of helping to charge personal family expenses to a nonprofit organization called the Peninsula Fund. She is also facing charges of embezzlement and conspiracy. Each charge is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

An investigation into financial crimes is still ongoing. However, an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against a family member has been concluded without any charges being filed.

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“After conducting a thorough investigation, we concluded that we did not have enough evidence to support a criminal sexual assault charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” stated Nessel. She refused to provide more information because Chatfield is currently a defendant in a criminal case brought by her office.

Nessel stated that Chatfield committed financial crimes by using public and political funds to pay for personal expenses. These expenses included a family vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, where they charged the cost of hotels, meals, souvenirs, and luxury goods to the fund.

Nessel, who is a Democrat, claimed that Lee Chatfield engaged in a “check kickback” scheme. This scheme involved writing checks from funds to an associate or relative, and then taking back cash to use for personal expenses. Nessel said that the purpose of the checks, such as payment for work done, was reported inaccurately. According to her, one of those plans involved using the Peninsula Fund to pay for a trip to the Bahamas in 2018, where Lee Chatfield and others received cash spending money. According to her, Chatfield created the Peninsula Fund in 2017.

According to Nessel, another “scheme” was when Chatfield personally benefited by subletting an apartment that was paid for by the Peninsula Fund.

Chatfield and his wife used the Peninsula Fund to pay off $132,000 in charges on Chatfield’s personal credit card. They did this over a period of 14 months.

According to Nessel, Chatfield and his wife have not been arrested. They will have the opportunity to report for arraignment and processing at a later date, with the help of their attorneys.

In an email statement, Lee Chatfield’s attorney Mary Chartier described the charges as politically motivated and expressed readiness to fight them at every stage.

“Although we are not representing Mrs. Chatfield, it seems like she is being manipulated for political reasons. We believe that her lawyer will successfully defend her in court against these charges,” stated Chartier.

Chartier praised the decision to close the investigation into the sexual assault allegations, stating that the accusations were without merit. Chartier said that Lee Chatfield will be arraigned and processed at the appropriate time.

Two of Chatfield’s highest-ranking assistants are also accused of running a criminal operation while working for Chatfield. This operation involved stealing money from nonprofit organizations and campaign committees. The charges were brought by Nessel in December.

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