A now-former employee of the State of Michigan is being accused of coming up with an elaborate scheme to siphon money from state accounts.  State investigators say 49-year-old Joseph Pettit got away with it for several years. His time ran out with his arrest. But not until he had erased well over $800,000 from state-managed accounts and moved the money into accounts he set up to make it all look legitimate. It worked. For a while. At a minimum, he’s facing three separate felony charges which could put him behind bars for a very long time. He’s being charged directly by the State Attorney General’s Office.

Investigators say one of Pettit’s responsibilities with the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Department, was to process money being deposited and then disbursed through conformance bonds held by the department. That money is held like an escrow account when a company is allowed to drill for oil and gas. The funds are returned to the company when the activity ends and there are no charges against the account.

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Petit is accused of devising a way to create fake vendors, complete with accounts he set up. He’s charged with diverting money from the conformance bond accounts he managed, into the new accounts. For his own use. The disclosed amount involved is around $850,000. But investigators say there’s nearly three more years of activity involved where they can’t pursue action due to statute of limitations barriers. So the amount could be a lot higher.

But it sounds like Attorney General Dana Nessel feels comfortable with the three primary felony charges which carry a combined potential sentence of up to over 50 years. "This case is a reminder that my office treats it very seriously when anyone abuses the system for their own gain,” she says. “I am grateful to EGLE for their cooperation and diligence in ensuring those who violate the public trust are held accountable and in working to ensure something like this never happens again.”

Pettit is scheduled for arraignment in a Lansing area courtroom tomorrow (Friday, April 16, 2021).

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