Macomb County prosecutor accused of running criminal enterprise dating back to 2012

The Michigan attorney general has accused Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith of running a criminal enterprise dating back to 2012.

The criminal complaints were filed Tuesday, with Smith facing 10 charges that include five counts of embezzlement, and single charges of running a criminal enterprise, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit forgery, misconduct in office and accessory after the fact.

Attorney General Dana Nessel has been investigating Prosecutor Eric Smith and his department for more than a year over allegations of misusing asset forfeiture funds. The forfeiture fund is essentially money that comes from drunk drivers and drug forfeitures - public money. 

Forfeiture money should be used for prosecuting crimes or for victims, but instead the attorney general says Smith used the money for a personal security system for his house, country club parties, campaign expenses and to buy flowers and make-up for his secretaries.

Three other people were also charged alongside Smith: his former Chief of Staff Benjamin Liston, current Chief of Operations Derek Miller and businessman William Weber. 

They're alleged to have embezzled more than $600,000 since 2012.

"We knew there was an account being used that was not on the books," Hackel said Tuesday after news of the charges came down. 

But why did it take nearly eight years to come to this point? 

"That's a great question - but we needed help from the treasurer to come forward and ask that those funds be put on the books and on the records," Hackel said. And, ironically, the former treasurer of Macomb County is Miller, one of the other people being charged. 

And then there's the board of commissioners. 

"State police came in and the very first thing they did was take that audit out of the hands of the board of commissioners," Hackel said. 

And, ironically again - the chairman of the board of commissioners is Bob Smith, Eric's brother. 

"That's when everything else just kind of broke free," Hackel said. 

In a statement, Eric Smith's attorney says, "We have been working and cooperating with the Michigan Attorney General since last year while it continued to investigate politically motivated allegations. We will vigorously defend Mr. Smith against these baseless allegations. As he has over 15 years, Mr. Smith will continue to run the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office efficiently and effectively with the needs of the victims, law-enforcement partners in the community as its top priority."

Smith will turn himself in to the Michigan State Police post so he can get fingerprinted, and then he'll formally be arraigned on the 10 charges. 

Meanwhile, Hackel is urging Smith to step down. 

"I would recommend that you seriously think about stepping down as a result of the nature of these charges. We don't believe this is going to be the end of it. I understand there's still a federal component to it that hasn't yet played itself out."