Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Detroit CFO charged with $40 million fraud | National and world news

By meerna Jun12,2024

A man who for years controlled the finances of a group that turned Detroit’s riverfront into a popular attraction was charged last week with embezzling tens of millions of dollars.

William Smith allegedly used money from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to routinely pay credit card bills for travel, hotels, limousines, household items, clothing and jewelry, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court.

The fraud is “simply astounding in its scale,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison, who estimated the theft at $40 million.

Smith, who was CFO from 2011 until he was fired in May, was charged with bank and wire fraud. He was taken to court in handcuffs and then released on bail.

Defense attorney Gerald Evelyn did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

Smith has not spoken publicly since the scandal broke on May 14, when the Riverfront Conservancy board said he was being placed on leave. He was released on May 31.

The mission of the Riverfront Conservancy is to transform miles of waterfront along the Detroit River into a recreational destination with plazas, pavilions and green spaces.

Philanthropists and foundations have poured millions into ongoing projects, including the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. Wilson, who died in 2014, lived in suburban Detroit and owned the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

The Riverfront Conservancy’s 44-member board includes top business leaders and public officials who are shocked by the allegations.

“Each of us has a sense of responsibility to overcome this terrible act,” the council said.

By meerna

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