(WJBK) - A Macomb County insurance agent was sentenced Tuesday to at least 6 years in prison for embezzling more than $800,000 from southeast Michigan seniors.
Paul Garceau, Jr., of Grosse Pointe Park, had pleaded guilty to embezzlement by an agent greater than $100,000, a 20-year felony, and two counts of embezzlement by an agent between $50,000 and $100,000, a 15-year felony, and agreed to pay $613,199 in restitution.
Garceau was sentenced to 6 years to a maximum of 20 years for the first charge, and 6 years to 15 years for the latter charges. The sentences will run concurrently.
The investigation into Garceau's criminal activity began in October 2014 when Michigan State Police looked into an embezzlement and forgery complaint. Upon further investigation, Department of Insurance and Financial Services found evidence Garceau was engaging in illegal activities.
The attorney general's office says Garceau embezzled $800,918 of his clients' funds between January 2008 and January 2015. Many of the 12 victims were elderly, and live in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Livingston Counties.
Garceau would convince clients to withdraw funds from legitimate investments, telling them he would reinvest the funds in better opportunities with higher returns. He actually spent the money on himself or his Ponzi scheme. He was charged May 2017.
"I think as angry as the people are in the gallery, all of them probably at one point or another have observed Paul do something good in his life because they've known him a long time," his defense attorney said. "This is not a man beyond redemption. This is a man who spent the past three years with his pastor, deacon, soul searching."
Fighting back tears, Garceau took his opportunity to speak to the judge and those affected.
"I was a thief. I stole money from people who trusted me. I put my needs before others' rights. My struggles impacted good people who worked hard for their money and saved. Now they don't have those funds during a time of their life they need it most," he said.
Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti called the crime unspeakable.
"There's a distinct pattern to your treachery. Most of your victims appear to be elderly people nearing retirement who invested with you achieve their dream of security financial stability and happiness in their golden years," he said. "Instead you shattered those dreams with a financial sledgehammer."