Former Chatfield aides plead not guilty to financial crimes

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield speaks with reporters in 2019. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

By Michigan Advance

January 4, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Top aides to former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield pleaded not guilty Wednesday to numerous felony charges from the state Attorney General’s Office which asserts Robert and Anne Minard embezzled over a half-million dollars while serving the speaker.

Robert and Anne Minard of Bath Township are a married couple who held high-ranking positions for Chatfield, a Republican who is currently being investigated for potential misappropriation of finances, as well as sexual assault, after his sister-in-law told police he sexually assaulted her for over a decade, beginning when she was 14 or 15 years old and a student at Michigan Christian Academy in Burt Lake. Chatfield used to be a teacher there and his father is the superintendent.

Robert Minard served as Chatfield’s chief of staff and Anne Minard was his external affairs director.

The couple’s chronic and purposeful pattern of illegally falsifying records and pocketing money was so “black and white” that “it’s obvious that they were counting on the fact that no one would ever review it,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said during a news conference announcing charges in December.

While investigating Chatfield, Nessel said investigators found that just between 2018 to 2020 the Minards pocketed at least $525,000 by misappropriating funds from multiple channels including nonprofit organizations and state campaign committees, as well as falsifying adjusted gross income on their 2020 taxes.

Some of the felonies they face carry up to 20 years in prison.

“…[W]e allege that Rob and Anne Minard didn’t just skirt around Michigan’s anemic regulation of political spending, but knowingly, willfully and overtly violated the law for their own personal enrichment,” Nessel said in December. “And under the shade allowed through Michigan’s current campaign finance laws, the Minards hid under the guise of the business of fundraising to repeatedly embezzle money from nonprofits.”

Both are charged as follows:

  • One count of conducting a criminal enterprise; a 20-year felony
  • One count of conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony
  • Three counts of false pretenses – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, five-year felonies
  • One count of false pretenses – $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a 15-year felony
  • One count of embezzlement – $100,000 or more; a 20-year felony One count of filing a false tax return; a five-year felony.

Anne Minard has also been charged individually with:

  • Two counts of embezzlement – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 from a nonprofit or charitable organization, a 10-year felony
  • Two counts of false pretenses – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, each five-year felonies

Rob Minard has been charged individually with:

  • One additional count of false pretenses – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a five-year felony

The pair is scheduled to appear back in court in East Lansing later this month.

READ MORE: Two people who worked for former Michigan House leader are charged with financial crimes

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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