GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former city employee who oversaw the public auction of impounded vehicles is accused of embezzling $63,388.
A Grand Rapids spokesperson told News 8 the worker, Lenee Brooks, is no longer employed by the city.
The office of Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker charged Brooks, 34, with embezzlement of $50,000 or more, but less than $100,000. That’s a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, though it’s unlikely Brooks, who has no criminal history, would serve that much time if convicted.
She was arraigned on Jan. 6 and released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
Brooks was in charge of public auctions at the city of Grand Rapids Impound Lot at 1300 Market Ave. SW, where abandoned and seized vehicles are stored.
While Brooks supervised the impound auctions, it’s Merritt Auctions & Tent Rentals that actually conducts them.
“After the auction was done (Merritt) would add up the checks and cash,” a Grand Rapids Police detective wrote in an affidavit of probable cause filed in 61st District Court.
“They would enter all of this information on a sheet. Brooks would then count the cash and confirm the dollar amount was right on the sheet. The suspect (Brooks) would then take the money to city hall. The suspect (Brooks) would enter in a data base how much money in checks and cash she took in from the auction,” the detective wrote.
According to the affidavit, it was Brooks’ new boss who noticed some issues with the auctions.
“The suspect was taking up to three days to deposit the cash. (The boss) found out there were forms from Merritt that showed how much cash was taken in. Those forms were not turned in to the city (by Brooks). (The boss) matched up the cash taken in according to Merritt’s forms and the form the suspect filled out,” the Grand Rapids police detective on the case wrote, noting the comparison showed about $63,388 had been stolen from the auction from March 11, 2019, through Oct. 19, 2020.
“I determined on 3/11/19, 5/6/19, 6/16/20, 10/19/20 that there was cash missing from each deposit. The suspect deposited the same amount of cash in her personal bank account… within 1-7 days of the auction. There were 7 other missing deposits where (Brooks) made deposits into her personal bank account to an amount close to the amount stolen,” the detective wrote.
The detective went on to write that Brooks, when interviewed about the missing cash, told police “she could have made an error.”
News 8 knocked on Brooks’s door seeking comment, and the 34-year-old asked, “who is it?” from behind the door. When we explained who we were and why we were there, she said nothing.
Brooks’s defense attorney later declined comment as well.
Prosecutor Becker said his office takes any violation of the public trust very seriously.
“Whether it be a city employee, county employee, anybody who’s entrusted with taxpayer money essentially, that’s very concerning,” Becker said.
A city spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that “The City takes fraud and corruption very seriously.”
“Following an internal investigation, this case was presented to the Prosecutor’s Office, and they authorized a criminal charge of Embezzlement over $50,000. This individual no longer works for the City and we have since made changes to prevent future abuses,” the statement continued. “In order to respect the integrity of the criminal proceedings, we’ll decline further comment at this time.”