Paad to face 5 counts of embezzlement
March 16, 2011 - An Oxford Village employee will face criminal charges for allegedly stealing tax money from the municipality.
Deputy Clerk M. Patricia Paad, who has been suspended without pay since late January, will be charged with five counts of embezzlement by a public official over $50, according to Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton.
Each count is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
"That is going to cover a period of between Sept. 8, 2006 and Dec. 15, 2010," Walton said. "If convicted of those crimes, we can ask for restitution to cover all of the money that was stolen during that time period."
Walton did not have a final total regarding the amount of tax money Paad is accused of embezzling. That's still being determined by the village, he said.
Whatever the total ends up being, Walton indicated if Paad is convicted, the dollar amount would be submitted to the court for consideration.
If the village "can justify it and they've got the documentation for it" and "the court finds by the requisite standard that she has embezzled that much," Walton said, "the court has the authority then to order restitution, even if it exceeds the amount charged."
Walton noted that embezzlement generally isn't a felony unless the amount stolen exceeds $1,000. However, because a public official is involved in this case, the law reduces the amount of financial loss necessary to make it a felony.
On Tuesday afternoon, Walton stated that the prosecutor's office would be releasing the charges against Paad that day. "I would imagine that the Michigan State Police will probably swear to them sometime tomorrow, at which time the court will set an arraignment date," he said.
Whether police officers arrest Paad at her home or she turns herself in "is going to be up to her," Walton said.
Village officials were first made aware of Paad's alleged embezzlement on Jan. 25, when Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth informed Manager Joe Young about it.
Helmuth admitted to Young, and later village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski, that back when she was the deputy treasurer in 2006-07, she discovered Paad had allegedly embezzled $2,000 to $3,500 in property tax money paid in cash to the village. Helmuth said Paad told her she needed the money to pay her mortgage because her house was going into foreclosure.
Helmuth admitted she chose not to report the alleged embezzlement and instead, allegedly loaned Paad money from her own pocket to repay the village.
In light of this accusation, Young suspended Paad with pay on Jan. 25. Three days later, the village council changed the suspension to without pay. The Michigan State Police were called in to investigate the matter.
The village subsequently discovered that approximately $5,000 in property tax money paid for the July 2010 bill is currently missing. According to officials, they discovered tax statements marked paid in cash at Paad's work area, but the payments had not been posted nor had any money been deposited in village bank accounts.
Despite the fact that Helmuth admitted to not reporting the alleged embezzlement from 2006-07 and to helping conceal it, Walton said the councilwoman will not face any criminal charges because she is a "necessary witness" against Paad. Even though both Neymanowski and Young interviewed Helmuth and generated written reports based on her statements to them, the prosecutor's office still needs her to testify in court against Paad.
"It doesn't matter if you've got a written statement from a witness," Walton explained. "The defendant has the right to confront his or her accusers in court. And we can't proceed by a series of depositions or police statements. The person has to come in, testify in court and be subject to cross-examination. There are exceptions to that rule, but none of them fit this case."
"In order to prosecute the case, you're going to need a witness to come in and testify," he said. "In a case like this, you're going to need an individual with knowledge to testify as to what occurred."
Walton noted the state police didn't seek any charges against Helmuth. "When the Michigan State Police presented this case, they presented it for a warrant request against Ms. Paad. They didn't present it against Ms. Helmuth because I think there was a realization that we would need a witness to prosecute," he said. "When the Michigan State Police presented this case for review of potential charges, (Helmuth) was always listed as a witness, never a defendant."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.