Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hosted the first meeting of the new Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, created as a standing commission within the Department of Attorney General by PA 325 of 2014. The new Commission will make recommendations to the Legislature to improve laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in the state and will work with the nine-person Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Every day in America, human trafficking victims are robbed of their childhood, their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives through sex slavery or forced labor,” said Schuette. “The victim-centered efforts of our 2013 Commission shined a light on these criminals, vividly illustrating that this is not just a problem for the world – it is a problem for Michigan. And now the real work begins as the new Michigan Human Trafficking Commission begins its task towards fighting human trafficking in communities across our state.” Read more: http://1.usa.gov/1JuwiYQ
- Schuette, Creagh Announce $25 Million Civil Settlement, Two Criminal No Contest Pleas by Chesapeake Energy Corp. to Resolve Racketeering, Bid-Rigging Allegations
April 24, 2015
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh today announced that the state has reached a $25 million civil settlement with Oklahoma-based energy company Chesapeake Energy Corporation. This settlement resolves allegations the company conspired with Calgary-based Encana Oil & Gas to avoid bidding wars against each other in Michigan public auctions for oil and gas leases that caused lease prices to plummet in October 2010. This settlement also addresses complaints that Chesapeake defrauded hundreds of private citizens by fraudulently cancelling their oil and gas leases in 2010. Schuette previously reached a $5 million settlement agreement with Encana in May 2014.
In addition to agreeing to the civil settlement, representatives for Chesapeake today entered two no contest pleas for the company before Judge Scott Pavlich in Cheboygan Circuit Court to one count of criminal attempted antitrust violations, a misdemeanor and one count of false pretenses, a misdemeanor.
“This is a victory for Michigan taxpayers and a victory for all the Michigan land-owners who took deep hits to their pocketbooks following the October 2010 private land auction,” said Schuette. “This settlement will achieve recovery for every one of the more than 700 affected victims who come forward and make a valid claim.”
“I am grateful to Attorney General Schuette for demanding a fair resolution to these charges,” said Creagh. “This settlement protects the interests of Michigan citizens while also safeguarding the natural resources of our state for current and future generations.”
Criminal charges filed against Chesapeake and the civil settlement announced today are the result of the Attorney General's investigation into questionable business practices surrounding Michigan oil and gas lease auctions and leasing from private citizens.
Terms of Civil Settlement with Chesapeake
The civil settlement includes the following key terms:
- A $25 million victims’ compensation fund will be established and every victim listed in the state’s Racketeering complaint will be paid back 100% of their losses and attorney fees.
- The victims who have pursued private settlements with Chesapeake, which resulted in Chesapeake paying more than $19 million to victims, will have the opportunity to have their cases reopened to recoup additional losses not already compensated for. This combined with the state’s $25 million settlement results in $44 million total paid to victims by Chesapeake.
- The company will pay $5 million to the State of Michigan. $2.5 million will go to funds managed by the Department of Natural Resources and affected by Chesapeake’s actions, and the remaining $2.5 million will fund the State’s anti-trust enforcement activities.
- Victims who have not yet come forward in the last four years will have 120 more days to file a claim and will be paid back 100% of their valid losses. It is estimated there are more than 700 affected victims.
No Contest Plea and Delayed Sentence
Today the company pleaded no contest to one count of attempted antitrust violations, a misdemeanor and one count of false pretenses, a misdemeanor. The state agreed to an 11-month delayed sentence on both charges. If Chesapeake abides by the terms of the settlement, the criminal case would be dismissed after 11 months. As charged, a conviction would only bring recovery for the 20 victims named in the complaint. This settlement would achieve recovery for everyone who makes a valid claim – more than 700 victims.
Background on Schuette’s Anti-Trust and Racketeering Cases Against Chesapeake
Schuette filed criminal anti-trust charges against Chesapeake Energy on March 5, 2014 alleging a bid-rigging conspiracy with Encana pertaining to state land leases. This was initially uncovered by Reuters news agency in 2012. Schuette reached a $5 million settlement with Encana on May 5, 2014 prior to the preliminary exam in Cheboygan District Court. On July 10, 2014 District Court Judge Maria Barton ordered Chesapeake to proceed to trial on one count of anti-trust violations.
On June 5, 2014, Schuette filed racketeering and false pretenses charges against Chesapeake for the alleged victimization of private land owners across Northern Michigan. Judge Maria Barton ordered Chesapeake to proceed to trial on all counts on September 9, 2014.
Today’s settlement resolves all current and pending litigation between Chesapeake and the State of Michigan.
- Schuette Announces First Meeting of New Human Trafficking Commission
April 22, 2015
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today hosted the first meeting of the new Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, created as a standing commission within the Department of Attorney General by PA 325 of 2014. Twelve Commission members were appointed by Gov. Snyder to represent various key groups and public officials. This Commission will build upon the work begun by Schuette’s bipartisan 2013 Commission on Human Trafficking that assessed the state of human trafficking in Michigan and provided a report with action-oriented recommendations to lawmakers and Gov. Snyder. The new Commission will make recommendations to the Legislature to improve laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in the state and will work with the nine-person Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Every day in America, human trafficking victims are robbed of their childhood, their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives through sex slavery or forced labor,” said Schuette. “The victim-centered efforts of our 2013 Commission shined a light on these criminals, vividly illustrating that this is not just a problem for the world – it is a problem for Michigan. And now the real work begins as the new Michigan Human Trafficking Commission begins its task towards fighting human trafficking in communities across our state.”
At today’s meeting, Schuette and several representatives from law enforcement, state agencies, victim advocates and the public convened at the Department of Attorney General where they elected a vice-chair, approved bylaws, provided a Commission overview, discussed subcommittees and established dates for future meetings. Carol Isaacs, Chief Deputy of the Michigan Department of Attorney General, was appointed by Gov. Snyder to chair the Commission. A list of the Commission members is available here.
The mission of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission as set forth in statute includes:
- Identifying sources for grants that will assist in examining and countering human trafficking in this state, and applying for those grants when appropriate.
- Funding research programs to determine the extent and nature of human trafficking in Michigan.
- Providing information and training regarding human trafficking to law enforcement, health care providers, social services personnel and other individuals the commission considers appropriate.
- Collecting and analyzing information regarding human trafficking in Michigan.
- Identifying state and local agencies within Michigan and other states, as well as within the federal government, that are involved with issues relating to human trafficking, and coordinating the dissemination of information regarding human trafficking in Michigan to those agencies.
- Reviewing existing services available to assist human trafficking victims, including crime victim assistance, health care, and legal assistance, and establishing a program to make those victims better aware of the services available to them.
- Establishing a program to improve public awareness of human trafficking.
- Reviewing existing state laws and administrative rules relating to human trafficking and making recommendations to the legislature to improve those laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in Michigan.
Background on Schuette’s Department Fighting Human Trafficking in Michigan
Human trafficking is modern day slavery and it is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking.
Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation. Children are especially vulnerable, and existing data sources strongly suggest that the current reported human trafficking statistics do not provide a complete picture of the prevalence of human trafficking in Michigan.
Upon taking office in 2011, Schuette launched the state's first Human Trafficking Unit in the Attorney General's Office to prosecute human traffickers under state law. Since then, Schuette's Human Trafficking Unit has prosecuted ten individuals on human trafficking charges, and secured eight human trafficking convictions, with a case against one defendant currently pending.
Schuette served as one of ten attorneys general nationwide selected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative on Combating Human Trafficking, called Pillars of Hope. Schuette works closely with his colleagues to craft a coordinated national strategy to combat human trafficking, including efforts to prosecute offenders, assist victims, analyze the impact of this crime and raise public awareness nationwide.
- Identifying sources for grants that will assist in examining and countering human trafficking in this state, and applying for those grants when appropriate.
- Schuette to Co-Host Vigil at Capitol Remembering Michigan Crime Victims
April 20, 2015
LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced he is co-hosting Wednesday’s 27th Annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil, sponsored by The Crime Victim Foundation, with Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton), and Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), co-chairs of the Crime Victims Caucus in the Michigan Senate. The vigil serves as a time of remembrance for victims’ families and friends as well as an opportunity to honor those who have served victims beyond their ordinary duties. The vigil also falls during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
The vigil will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, April 22 at 6:00 p.m. The event is open to the public and media.
“It is my privilege to continue to support the families who have lost loved ones as well as honor the selfless women and men dedicated to serving crime victims at this year's Michigan Crime Victims Vigil,” said Schuette.
“Victims of crime deserve a strong voice and advocate, and they have a friend in the attorney general’s office. Standing firmly together, we will never give up the fight to strengthen public safety and protect Michigan families from crime.”
The keynote speaker this year is longtime vigil co-host Sen. Schuitmaker, who serves as President Pro Tempore of the Michigan Senate and vice chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary committee.
The vigil also features an award ceremony honoring several advocates for their outstanding service on behalf of crime victims and a candlelight service to remember lost loved ones.
In 1985, Michigan was one of the first states to implement crime victim rights and was the one of the first states to adopt these rights in our state constitution in 1988.
Schuette remains committed to elevating and strengthening the Michigan Crime Victim’s Rights Act, working with law enforcement, the courts and victim organizations to build a stronger statewide support system for crime victims.
Attorney General's Crime Victim Advocacy
In May 2011, Schuette created the post of Director of Crime Victim Advocacy to serve as a voice for crime victims, a watchdog over enforcement of the state's William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act and as a coalition-builder to provide statewide support for victims of crime.
In addition to numerous reforms and new initiatives, Schuette continues to advocate on behalf of crime victims by working with legislators to craft new laws, by working with law enforcement agencies across Michigan to better assist victims and by moving forward to field further enhancements in statewide support.
Since taking office in 2011, Schuette won expanded protections for child sex-abuse victims who testify in court and launched a fight for notices to crime victims when criminals are freed or escape.
Schuette also initiated legislation to target the most violent habitual offenders. Schuette’s VO-4 legislation allows prosecutors to require a minimum 25-year sentence for certain repeat offenders who have committed four felonies while progressing to more violent crimes. Schuette’s VO-4 law was signed into law as Public Act 319 of 2012.“VO-4 helps ensure safer communities by giving prosecutors a tool to remove the worst of the worst - violent, repeat offenders - from our streets,” said Schuette. “The worst repeat felons belong behind bars where they cannot prey on any additional victims. We will never have a full economic recovery until we have safety in our streets, neighborhoods, and schools."
- Schuette Recovers More Than $95,000 in Back Child Support for Michigan Family
April 13, 2015
LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his Child Support Division has recovered approximately $95,625.78 in arrearages from Jesse Pace, 41, of Wasilla, Alaska for felony non-support. Pace is a former resident of Clare, Michigan.
"No matter who you are or where you live, you cannot run from the responsibility to provide for your children - we will hold you accountable," said Schuette."If you are able to pay child support but fail to do so, you must face the consequences."
Background on Pace Case
In March 2015, Pace was arrested by Alaska State Police at his Wasilla home on a warrant filed by Schuette for failing to pay years of child support for his daughter in Clare. Schuette's office began the extradition process for Pace to face charges in Michigan, but dismissed charges after he paid arrears of $95,625.78, the total amount due in back child support payments and penalties.
In 1999, a court order was filed in Clare's 55th Circuit directing Pace to pay the back child support owed to his daughter. After Pace failed to pay child support, Schuette's Child Support Division filed a felony warrant against him in 2006 in Clare's 80th District Court.
Pace led a nomadic lifestyle, leaving a trail in North Carolina, Florida, Washington, and ending up in Alaska. Pace currently owns a 4,600 square foot home estimated to be worth more than $500,000 in Wasilla.
Attorney General Child Support Division
More than 14,000 Michigan children have received child support funds owed to them since the Attorney General's Child Support Division was launched in 2003. Since its launch, the office has averaged approximately 900 warrants for felony nonsupport and 700 arrests per year. This case marks one of the Child Support Division's largest single collections of child support arrearages to date. Today, fifty percent of prosecutions handled by Schuette's Child Support Division involve non-custodial parents who live outside of Michigan.
Schuette noted the Child Support Division focuses on those parents who have an ability to pay, but refuse to do so. Michigan is the only state to make failure to pay child support a four-year felony. Schuette said his office focuses on non-custodial parents resuming regular child support payments, not jail time. As a result, Michigan kids are paid what they are owed and subsequently receive consistent support into the future. Oftentimes the recognition of potential criminal prosecution is enough to encourage a non-custodial parent to act before setting foot in a courtroom.
Schuette notes the Attorney General Child Support Division pays for itself, collecting $22 in child support for every $1 in State general funds invested in its operation. In addition to recovering funds for Michigan families, the Child Support Division recovers taxpayer dollars spent to assist needy families when they do not receive the child support to which they are entitled.
Schuette encourages custodial parents currently not receiving support to file an online request with his office at www.michigan.gov/ag.
- Schuette Charges Macomb County Man with Multiple Felonies for Child Pornography
April 6, 2015
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Criminal Division has filed criminal charges against Anthony Modrzejewski, 39, of St. Clair Shores, for allegedly possessing and distributing child pornography as well as videotaping an unclothed person. Schuette charged Modrzejewski with ten counts of possessing child sexually abusive material, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine; and, ten counts of distributing or promoting child sexually abusive material, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine; and, one count of Using a Computer to Commit a Crime, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine; and, one count of Videotaping an Unclothed Person, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Charges resulted from a Michigan Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) investigation.
“As a father and as Attorney General, I understand our responsibility to secure justice for Michigan’s most vulnerable victims by prosecuting predators who exploit children,” said Schuette. “Downloading child pornography is not a victimless crime – the children in those pictures and videos are abused again and again by the predators that download and trade their image.”
Modrzejewski is accused of possessing numerous images of child pornography and was arrested on April 2, 2015 by the Michigan ICAC and St. Clair Shores Police Department. Modrzejewski was arraigned on April 2, 2015 before Magistrate Mark Metry at St. Clair Shores 40th District Court. He was assigned a $250,000 cash/surety bond and is next due in court on April 14 for a preliminary examination. He is currently incarcerated in the Macomb County Jail.
“I am grateful for the help and hard work of the Michigan ICAC Task Force. These dedicated men and women of public safety help patrol the Internet for instances of crimes against children, and Michigan is better because of their efforts to crack down on sexual predators. Thank you to the St. Clair Shores Police Department for your help and hard work on this case also.”
The Michigan ICAC Task Force is comprised of members from the Michigan Attorney General, Detroit Police Department, United States Secret Service, Michigan Department of Corrections.
Modrzejewski is pronounced Mod-Jes-Skee.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.