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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Felonies: Embezzlement from vulnerable adult is a serious crime

Every year, the state's Health Care Fraud Division investigates cases that involve the filing of fraudulent claims and embezzlement of benefits. These felonies could lead to significant fines and jail sentences if convictions are obtained. A 50-year-old Michigan woman who faces charges of felony embezzlement is likely exploring her defense options.

According to court documents, the investigation followed a report by a nursing home that one resident's fees for the provided care were not being paid. Investigators claim to have found evidence indicating that the accused woman unlawfully used over $40,000 that belonged to a vulnerable family member that lives in the nursing home. According to the Health Care Fraud Division, the amount involved in this case represents one of the most significant examples of embezzlement pursued by the unit.

Felonies: The reforms offered by the First Step Act

By signing the First Step Act into law recently, President Trump brought about the first step in the reform of criminal justice. He did this by altering the guidelines for federal sentences. While Michigan and other states will likely take additional steps, judges will have leeway that they did not previously have when it comes to sentencing convicted criminals, regardless of the severity of the felonies committed.

One of the most significant reforms involves the federal "three strikes" rule that brought mandated life sentences for those who were convicted three or more times for drug trafficking or serious violent felonies. No longer will they be sentenced to life in prison, but 25 years instead. The mandated minimum sentence for serious drug felonies will be 15 years and no longer 20 years. In the past, 25 years were automatically added to the sentence of someone who is convicted for a second or consecutive time for being armed during violent or trafficking crimes; however, in the future, it will only apply for those with prior convictions for similar offenses. None of these will be retroactive.

Rapid DNA program leads to speedy resolve of felonies

People in Michigan will no doubt be aware of the use of DNA in criminal investigations. Cold cases and new felonies are resolved by comparing a suspect's DNA profile with evidence to assess the likelihood of his or her involvement in a crime. It could take weeks to get DNA evidence from the crime scene to identification facilities. However, a new rapid DNA program in another state recently helped law enforcement to arrest a suspected burglar and recover stolen property within six days.

This program allows identification of suspects within hours of submitting DNA samples for testing. As part of a plea agreement, a man provided a DNA sample last June. Then, on Dec. 20, after investigators submitted a cigarette butt found at a crime scene for DNA testing on Dec. 19, the same man was identified as the one who allegedly broke into one vehicle, removed several items from it, including the key to a second vehicle, and then stole that second vehicle.

Office manager indicted on 11 counts of white collar crimes

Anyone in Michigan who is accused of embezzlement will likely sense that obtaining legal counsel as soon as possible is crucial. A 41-year-old woman in another state is in such a predicament. She was recently indicted on 11 counts of white collar crimes by a federal grand jury.  According to the indictment, the woman allegedly embezzled more than $116,000 from the company that employed her.

Court documents indicate that the defendant worked as an accountant and office manager for a solar energy equipment supplier from Oct. 2016 through April 2018. The federal indictment alleges that the woman's embezzling ways started within her first month of employment with the company and continued throughout her years in that position. Further allegations state that the defendant used company credit cards for personal purchases of $47,665. She also issued herself several unauthorized checks, some of which were allegedly for fraudulent and illegal reimbursements as well as extra paychecks for herself, and some checks were cashed without authorization.

Fraud and cashing in on the hot Grand Rapids real estate market

After years of incredibly low prices and inventory saturation, the Michigan real estate market has finally bounced back. In fact, in recent quarters, the West Michigan and Grand Rapids real estate markets have ranked among some of the hottest and most lucrative in the nation.

Compared to other metropolitan areas across the United States, the greater Grand Rapids area has relatively affordable home pricing. Combine those comparatively low prices with increasing demand for property, and you have a recipe for both profit and fraud.

White collar crimes filed against music director Robin DiMaggio

Whether in Michigan or another state, facing criminal charges for embezzlement could have dire consequences. Authorities report that Robin DiMaggio, music director for the Arsenio Hall Show on TV and also formerly for the United Nations, was recently arrested and charged with white collar crimes allegedly committed in 2016. The complaint indicates that the charges involve embezzlement of funds meant for displaced and homeless children.

According to court documents, the music director failed to set up an escrow account for $750,000 that a financial sponsor provided for the artists he allegedly promised to secure for a charity concert. Instead, federal prosecutors say the defendant paid the money into his private bank account and proceeded to use the funds to pay living expenses, credit card debt and car payments. Further allegations state he spent over $250,000 on a house for his former wife.

Felonies: Michigan executive faces manslaughter charge

In 2014 and 2015, Legionnaires' disease broke out in Mid-Michigan, and several key people, including the chief medical executive of Michigan, Dr. Eden Wells, are accused of failing to prevent the outbreak. She is facing involuntary manslaughter charges. These types of felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500. About 90 people in Genesee County contracted Legionnaires' Disease, and 12 cases ended in death.

Wells was initially charged with lying to police and obstruction of justice, but the Michigan Attorney General added the manslaughter charge later. Experts say the cooling and misting systems used in treating the Flint River water for municipal use led to the bacterial growth that caused the outbreak. Wells is accused of taking no action to prevent the outbreak, even though she allegedly knew of the danger.

Post-conviction matters: Will DNA prove innocence after 33 years?

Advances in science and technology allow for the possibility that certain criminal convictions in Michigan and other states may be subject to challenge. Post-conviction matters of this nature require the skills of a criminal defense attorney who has experience in dealing with DNA matters when it comes to a potential miscarriage of justice. In another state, a man has spent the past 33 years in jail for a murder that he claims he did not commit.

It appears that DNA evidence was discovered that eliminates the evidence on which the conviction was based. In the original case, the prosecution relied solely on physical evidence to link the man to the death of a 23-year-old woman in 1985. A judge decided that the new evidence justifies a new trial. He found that none of the original blood samples or other evidence contained the DNA of the man who was convicted for the murder.

Computer and internet crimes: What is a Secret Sister Gift?

People in Michigan who receive emails or social media invitations to be part of a Secret Sister Gift Exchange might not realize that it is illegal. It involves an electronic chain letter that works in the same way as pyramid schemes, which are regarded as computer and internet crimes. How can such a proposal be recognized?

These chain letters make their way electronically in the time leading up to the holidays, asking the recipient to send a gift to the individual whose name is at the top of a list of names. The recipient must then forward that letter to a specific number of his or her friends, inviting them to participate and adding their names to the list. When the recipient's name reaches the top of the list, he or she will receive gifts from all those whose names are listed below.

Drug trafficking charges require a strong legal strategy

If you find yourself facing drug trafficking charges, you cannot waste any time building a strong legal defense. Even simple drug possession charges can result in lengthy jail time and significant fines, and may bar you from exercising certain rights.

Drug trafficking charges are much more serious, especially since they are usually felony charges and may involve law enforcement at both the federal and state level.

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