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Former EGLE employee will serve time for embezzlement charges

49-year-old Joseph Pettit pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $850,000 from the State of Michigan.
Embezzlement graphic.
Embezzlement graphic.(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 10:43 AM EDT|Updated: Dec. 21, 2021 at 4:04 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE - Dec. 21, 2021

A former employee of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) who previously pleaded guilty to embezzling will serve jail time and probation, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and EGLE Director Liesl Clark announced Tuesday.

Joseph Pettit, pleaded guilty in September to the following in Ingham County 30th Circuit Court:

  • two counts of embezzlement over $100,000, a felony punishable by up to 20 years and a fine of up to $50,000 or three times the value of the money or property, whichever is greater; and
  • one count of uttering and publishing, a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

This afternoon, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced him to one year in Ingham County jail and three years’ probation. Pettit will also forfeit his state pension in accordance with the Public Employees Retirement Benefits Act.

“State employees serve the many operations that keep Michigan running for our millions of residents,” Nessel said. “Abusing that responsibility will not be tolerated by my office. I appreciate the hard work that went into securing the plea and, ultimately, accountability for Mr. Pettit’s egregious acts.”

“There are no winners here, least of all Michigan EGLE’s 1200-plus public servants who exemplify the highest standards of ethics and are disheartened to learn a coworker violated those principles,” Clark said. “We are doing all we can to prevent any reoccurrence of this type of incident, including strengthened internal financial controls that provide greater checks and balances against fraud.”

As part of his sentence, Pettit will also be responsible for full restitution, which totals $855,690.

April 14, 2021

A former employee of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has been charged with embezzling more than $850,000 from the State, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and EGLE announced Wednesday.

49-year-old Joseph Pettit is charged with the following:

  • Three counts of embezzlement over $100,000, a 20 year felony
  • Four counts of uttering and publishing, a 14 year felony
  • Using a computer to commit a crime, a 20 year felony

Any entity that wants to drill or operate any type of well in the State of Michigan, has to apply for a permit and post a conformance bond with the Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division of EGLE. When the owner of the well changes hands, the original owner gets the bond back.

As an employee of EGLE, most recently as an environmental quality specialist, Pettit was responsible for completing the process of releasing bonds back to companies and facilitating the transfer of bonds back to the original owner. Instead, Pettit created fake vendors and diverted these funds to bank accounts that he supplied for these vendors. Pettit worked at EGLE from 1996 until January of 2020.

“This case is a reminder that my office treats it very seriously when anyone abuses the system for their own gain,” said Nessel. “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.”

EGLE leadership became aware of potential discrepancies in September of 2020, and immediately contacted Michigan State Police, which conducted the investigation.

“Our discovery of potential crimes was immediately referred to law enforcement, and we continue to provide them everything they need to ensure justice is done on behalf of the State of Michigan,” said Liesl Clark, EGLE director. “We are also doing everything we can to prevent this from occurring again, including strengthening internal financial controls to provide even greater checks and balances against fraud.”

It is alleged that between 2018 and 2020, Pettit embezzled more than $850,000. Suspected losses from 2013 through 2016 are barred by the statute of limitations.

“We hold ourselves to the highest standards of government ethics at EGLE and that starts with vigilantly stewarding public funds,” Clark said. “So when an employee disregards department values and violates the public trust, it harms not only Michigan’s 10 million residents who count on us to use their resources wisely to protect the environment and public health, but also fellow members of the EGLE team who dedicate their lives to that mission.”

Pettit was charged in the Lansing District Court 54-A. He Is expected to appear in court Friday, April 16, for arraignment.

The AG’s office reminds the public that a criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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