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This Pretty Well Speaks for Itself

On October 3, 2011, in states, by John Payne

I’ve been out of town on vacation since the middle of last week, so I missed this story when it first appeared, but I can’t pass it up in good conscience:

The former Romulus police chief, his wife and five Romulus officers were charged today with running a scheme in which drug forfeiture money was used to pay for prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol.

The charges are the culmination of a nearly three-year investigation by Michigan State Police into what Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy called “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. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.

His wife, Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre, 50, also faces up to 20 years for her alleged role. She was charged with acquiring or maintaining a criminal enterprise and a charge of conspiracy criminal enterprise.

Detective Sgt. Richard Balzer, 50, and detectives Richard Landry, 39, and Donald Hopkins, 38, face felony racketeering charges that carry up to 20 years in prison. Detectives Jeremy Channells, 35, and Larry Droege, 32, face charges of misconduct in office that carry up to five years in prison…

Worthy said the former chief directed a team of detectives from the Romulus Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit that investigated alleged 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.

Worthy said the investigation was hidden from the supervisor of the special investigation unit. St. Andre, she said, had direct knowledge of the activities of Balzer, Landry, Hopkins, Channells and Droege. The men used drug forfeiture money to pay for prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol — to the tune of $40,000 in one year, Worthy said.

This is the kind of thing that happens when law enforcement agencies are allowed to control their own private slush funds with no legislative oversight.

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