By FRANK DeFRANK
For The Oakland Press
A former high-ranking Macomb County deputy sheriff faces up to five years in prison after she was charged Tuesday with embezzling thousands of dollars from the Romeo Lions Club.
Bobbi Jo Craft is charged with embezzling more than $1,000, but less than $20,000, from the Romeo-based charitable organization. If convicted of the principle charge, she could face five years in prison,$10,000 or more in fines or both.
Craft, who had risen to the rank of sergeant, resigned from the sheriff department March 31 as rumors circulated about her impending arrest. She also previously resigned as treasurer of the Romeo Lions Club.
“Craft’s arrest serves as a reminder than none of us, and perhaps especially those who wear a badge, are above the law,” said Greg Paduch, Romeo police chief who investigated the crime.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, whose office authorized the charges, echoed the police chief’s sentiment.
“Deputy Craft occupied a position of trust, both with the sheriff’s department and with the Lions charity,” Smith said.“She has violated that sacred trust, and will be held accountable.”
According to law enforcement authorities, over a five-month period in 2011, Craft falsified the authorizing signature on 26 checks that belonged to the club. Most of the checks were made out to “cash;” others to Craft personally or to “confederates,” authorities said.
Nobody else has yet been charged with a crime.
Authorities said Craft took the money for herself, though for what purpose was not specified. The exact amount of money involved also remains unclear.
Craft was confronted by other Lions Club officers over irregularities in financial reports for the Romeo Peach Festival, the club’s largest fund-raiser. She made statements about her misuse of the money and e-mailed a makeshift promissory note for the missing money along with her resignation as club treasurer, authorities said. Continued...
Attorney Stephen Rabaut, who’s representing Craft, declined comment directly on the criminal charges. But he left open the door for restitution by his client.
“Although some mistakes were made, she intends to see that the Romeo Lions Club is made whole,” Rabaut said.
Rabaut also said Craft has “moved on with her life” after resigning from the sheriff department.
If the charges are proven true, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said,“It’s “very disappointing that anybody in this department would violate the law.”
Gary Schocke, president of the Romeo Peach Festival, called the situation “very, very unfortunate.”
“There were no winners on this one,” Schocke said.
Schocke said despite the setback, the Romeo Lions Club continues to meet all of its charitable obligations.
“We’re going to survive this,” he said.
Craft is scheduled for arraignment later this week.