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Police discover $855K embezzlement scheme in state agency

April 14, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich (AP) — A former state employee was charged with embezzlement after investigators discovered that he stole more than $855,000 paid by well owners who needed permits, the Michigan attorney general’s office said Wednesday.

The figure likely reached $1.5 million, but the statute of limitations has run out on some of Joseph Pettit’s alleged acts, the state said.

Pettit, 49, worked at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, known as EGLE. Companies that drill or operate gas and oil wells must pay a performance bond to the state, but the bond typically is returned when a well changes hands.

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Pettit is accused of diverting money to accounts created in the names of phony vendors. EGLE contacted state police in September.

“We are also doing everything we can to prevent this from occurring again, including strengthening internal financial controls to provide even greater checks and balances against fraud,” said Liesl Clark, head of the environmental agency.

Pettit faces eight felonies, including three counts of embezzlement of more than $100,000 and using a computer to commit a crime. Defense attorney Stuart Shafer declined to comment.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.