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Fraud charges possible for Michigan Supreme Court justice

Any criminal defense attorney in Lansing will tell an accused person that ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Just because you didn't know the speed limit was 55 miles per hour does not mean that you can go 75 miles per hour.

In the case of recent charges made against a Michigan Supreme Court justice, ignorance of the law cannot reasonably be an issue. The justice has been accused of defrauding a bank in order to complete the short sale of a home owned by the justice and her husband. To date, there is pending civil litigation from the U.S. Attorney General's office but no criminal charges as of yet.

The situation is complicated, as most fraud or so-called white collar crimes are.

It begins with the couple allegedly transferring funds and hiding assets. The couple had a property in Florida that they quit claimed to a daughter.

With fewer assets on the books, the couple wrote a letter to their mortgage lender requesting a short sale of their Michigan home, stating financial hardship. A short sale allows someone to walk away from a home when it sells for less than the mortgage amount. In this case, the $1.5 million house sold for $850,000 and about $600,000 in debt was forgiven in the short sale.

Next, the daughter allegedly quit claimed the Florida property back to the couple. According to news sources, the couple also transferred another property before the short sale and redeemed it afterward.

The justice certainly should be aware of what is and what is not illegal in this instance and one would think would avoid anything illegal. She has not yet been charged with a crime, and reportedly has no intention of stepping down from the bench.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Mich. Supreme Count justice accused of defrauding bank," Ann Zaniewski and Tresa Baldas, Nov. 21, 2012

  • At our Lansing law firm, we represent clients charged with white collar crimes including fraud, money-laundering, embezzlement and other types of non-violent crimes.

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