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Michigan lawmaker sentenced for misdemeanor charge

A former state legislator in Michigan has pleaded no contest to charges associated with a financial fraud scheme that allegedly took money from more than 150 local victims. Criminal charges filed in the matter included neglect of duty by a public official. The man faced only a misdemeanor charge, for which he will serve a single year of probation, along with 320 hours of community service and a modest fine.

Although a no contest plea may seem similar to a guilty plea, it does not involve an admission of guilt. However, judges treat no-contest pleas in a similar fashion to guilty pleas when attempting to sentence defendants. Criminal defendants may benefit from discussing the attributes of a no-contest plea in connection with their specific criminal case.

Official reports show that the man lost $400,000 in investments that had been collected through the Ponzi scheme. The man is accused of seeking financial investments even as he was actively working as a legislator in the state house. Many of those that invested in the efforts were elderly, and they chose to invest thousands of dollars that were ultimately lost. Further, allegations surfaced that the man chose to allow the owners and operators of the Ponzi scheme to use his name and title as a state lawmaker to encourage elderly investors to hand over their money.

Two others who were involved in the Ponzi scheme have already pleaded guilty to racketeering and selling unregistered securities. Those two individuals will spend up to two decades in prison, and they must repay $8.3 million in financial restitution. Two additional individuals involved in the scheme also pleaded no contest to allegations of money laundering for their involvement in the alleged Ponzi scheme. Sentencing is still pending for those defendants.

In this case, the criminal defendant received a relatively light sentence because of his modest involvement in the Ponzi scheme. The man was only facing a misdemeanor charge, and he will not spend any time in jail, unlike those that have already been convicted in the case. This is indeed a beneficial outcome for the former lawmaker. Criminal defense attorneys can assist criminal defendants who have been associated with such financial fraud by providing them with additional information about their rights and responsibilities in court.

Source: Gannett Michigan, "Former Michigan lawmaker pleads no contest in ponzi scam that defrauded elderly" Kathleen Gray, Dec. 20, 2013

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