Ex-CFO of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Charged With Embezzling $40 Million

The former chief financial officer of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRFC) who was fired last month has been charged with bank fraud and wire fraud, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint.

William A. Smith—who served as the nonprofit’s CFO from 2011 until his ousting at the end of May—allegedly took part in a years-long scheme to embezzle Conservancy funds amounting to millions of dollars for his own use, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

According to its official website, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that was formed for the “establishment, improvement, operation, maintenance, security, programming, and expansion” of public access to the Detroit International Riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle.

The DOJ noted the Conservancy is funded through a combination of public and private funds, and Mr. Smith served as its CFO from 2011.

Prosecutors allege that between November 2012 and March 2024, Mr. Smith orchestrated a scheme to embezzle roughly $40 million from the Conservancy.

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The then-CFO carried out his alleged embezzlement scheme in two distinct ways, prosecutors said.

First, he allegedly used Conservancy funds to pay for charges that he and his family accrued on an American Express account. Secondly, Mr. Smith diverted Conservancy funds to a company he controlled called “The Joseph Group,” according to prosecutors.

However, none of the expenditures were authorized or approved by the Board of the DRFC, and “The Joseph Group” was not an approved vendor and provided no services to the DRFC, the criminal complaint states.

CFO ‘Obtained $5 Million Line of Credit ’

“Smith had no authority to use Conservancy funds to pay his own personal credit card bills,” the complaint states.

Prosecutors further allege that Mr. Smith covered up his alleged embezzlement by doctoring bank statements before handing them to the Conservancy’s accountant.

They further claim that he obtained a $5 million line of credit with Citizens Bank on the Conservancy’s behalf, despite having no authority to do so.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Smith was asked by the bank to provide documentation showing that he had authority to obtain the line of credit for the Conservancy and he provided them with a false document with a forged signature of the Conservancy’s Corporation Secretary.

Mr. Smith allegedly used the funds he obtained from this line of credit to further his embezzlement scheme, prosecutors said.

In a statement announcing the newly unsealed criminal complaint against Mr. Smith, U.S. Attorney Ison said the former CFO allegedly “abused the trust the Conservancy placed in him and to have carried out a fraud that is simply astonishing in scale.”

“Today’s allegations are extremely serious ones, and my office is committed to pursuing anyone, regardless of their title, who fleeces taxpayers and charitable donors for their own private gain,” Attorney Ison said.

He added that his office would continue working in close partnership with state and local law enforcement partners, whom he credited for initially bringing the alleged embezzlement scheme to his attention.

Mr. Smith was placed on leave on Friday and has not spoken publicly since, The Associated Press reports.

His alleged actions are currently being investigated by the FBI.

The Epoch Times has contacted Mr. Smith’s attorney, Gerald Evelyn, for comment.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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