Detroit Riverfront Conservancy fires CFO amid $40M embezzlement investigation

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has fired its Chief Financial Officer amid an FBI investigation and an audit – which has revealed that up to $40 million is believed to have been stolen or lost.

William Smith was fired as the conservancy's CFO this week, two weeks after it first placed him on leave amid an FBI investigation.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy said in a statement that it began noticing discrepancies last month in financial statements. Multiple audits were initiated and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider's law firm, Honigman Law Firm, was brought in to investigate. The law firm then presented the evidence to the Michigan State Police, who handed it over to the FBI.

All-told, the investigations revealed that more than $40 million was lost during the embezzlement.

"Our investigation has revealed that Mr. Smith has embezzled significant sums of money from the DRFC and has converted DRFC funds to his own personal use. Mr. Smith’s unlawful conduct spans several years. We are therefore terminating Mr. Smith’s DRFC employment, effective immediately, for cause," Schneider said in a letter to the board.

The board said in a statement announcing Smith's termination that ttheyw would work to recoup as much money as possible.

"This is obviously terrible news for all of the supporters of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and our mission," the Board statement said. "As board members, we each feel a sense of responsibility to overcome this horrific act."

The Conservancy has been behind the revitalization of Detroit's riverfront, with several recent additions opening to the public.

According to his bio on the conservancy's website, Smith is a graduate of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Leadership Detroit Class with more than 20 years of accounting experience.