DETROIT, MI – Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, 53-years-old, of Macomb Township, pled guilty to a one-count of Obstruction of Justice on Wednesday January 27th, 2021.
Smith entered his guilty plea before United States District Judge Linda V. Parker in United States District Court in Detroit this morning.
According to court records, Smith admitted to obstructing justice by attempting to get a friend and two of his assistant county prosecutors to make false statements to federal law enforcement officers and a federal grand jury in a federal criminal investigation of Smith’s own criminal conduct. The charge was based on an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that revealed that between 2012 and 2020, Smith conducted two fraud schemes to steal approximately $75,000 in cash from his political campaign fund to use for personal expenses. When he became aware of a federal grand jury investigation in 2019, Smith pressured three witnesses to lie and commit perjury on his behalf to federal authorities and a federal grand jury.
As part of guilty plea, Smith admitted that he had stolen over $74,000 from his campaign fund through two different fraud schemes. In one scheme, Smith falsely claimed that he was using campaign funds to pay rent on office space for his re-election efforts. In truth, however, Smith never used the office space, but instead wrote dozens of fraudulent checks to a friend worth over $50,000. The friend then kicked back cash from all of the cashed checks to Smith to use for his personal expenses. In a second fraud scheme, Smith wrote a check for $20,000 from the campaign fund to an assistant Macomb County prosecutor, ostensibly for “consulting” work on the campaign. However, the assistant prosecutor then cashed the check and surreptitiously provided $15,000 in cash to Smith for Smith’s personal expenses.
“Some may view Smith’s conviction as a reason to lack confidence in our elected officials or our prosecutors. But the opposite is true,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “This case shows that our system works. When there is a rare case where a law enforcement officer commits crimes, he or she will be held accountable. Smith’s case is that kind of case. No one is above the law in Michigan — and that includes those who enforce the law.”
“Any attempt to hinder a criminal investigation is a very serious matter,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Detroit. “This case, a man who had taken an oath to uphold the law was actively encouraging others to break it. That Mr. Smith was unsuccessful in his attempt to undermine the investigation is a testament to the determination of the FBI to hold individuals accountable when they break the law.”
As part of his guilty plea, Smith has agreed to forfeit the $69,950 in fraud proceeds that he personally received from his scheme to steal from his campaign account.
Obstruction of justice is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.