Former Michigan House leader and wife charged with financial crimes for misuse of political funds

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield bangs the gavel in Lansing on April 24, 2020. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File)

By Associated Press

April 16, 2024

LANSING—Prosecutors charged the former leader of the Michigan House and his wife with financial crimes Tuesday, alleging they milked political accounts for personal travel, housing and other benefits while the Republican lawmaker held the powerful post.

Lee Chatfield misused his multimillion-dollar Peninsula Fund, which was not required to report the names of donors and served as an “unregulated slush fund,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

“The misuse of social welfare funds is not a new practice in Lansing,” Nessel, a Democrat, told reporters. “No one political party has abused it.”

Chatfield faces 13 charges, including conducting a criminal enterprise, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The investigation began in 2022 when Chatfield’s sister-in-law publicly said he had sexually assaulted her. He has denied the allegations and said they had a consensual affair. Investigators eventually expanded the case beyond those claims.

Nessel said there was insufficient evidence to charge Chatfield based on Rebekah Chatfield’s allegations, though she praised her courage in stepping forward.

“Were it not for her we likely wouldn’t be here today,” the attorney general said.

Chatfield’s attorney, Mary Chartier, said she’ll fight the charges “each and every step of the way.”

“It took almost 2 1/2 years for the AG’s office to come up with charges. It’s going to be pretty flimsy if it took that long,” she said.

Chatfield’s wife, Stephanie Chatfield, also faces charges. A message seeking comment from her lawyer, Matt Newburg, was not immediately returned.

Two people who were top aides to Chatfield when he ran the House were charged last year with crimes, including embezzlement from nonprofit funds created for political purposes. Rob and Anne Minard have pleaded not guilty.

READ MORE: Former Chatfield aides plead not guilty to financial crimes

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CATEGORIES: CRIME AND SAFETY

Politics

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