African American voters photo
Associated Press

Despite fears that the coronavirus pandemic will worsen, Victor Gibson said he’s not planning to take advantage of Michigan’s expanded vote-by-mail system when he casts his ballot in November.

The retired teacher from Detroit just isn’t sure he can trust it. Many Black Americans share similar concerns and are planning to vote in person on Election Day, even as mail-in voting expands to more states as a safety precaution during the pandemic.

Unemployment Insurance Claims Office photo

Michigan said Friday that it halted payments to 340,000 unemployment benefit accounts — 20% of the state’s total — over concerns about fraudulent impostors, though many are legitimate claimants who need the money during the coronavirus pandemic.

People’s “economic lifeline is now tied up due to this criminal scheme,” said Jeff Donofrio, director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, which includes the Unemployment Insurance Agency. “Our priority continues to be identifying and paying legitimate claimants the benefits they need and deserve.”

Gavel with money photo
Wikimedia Commons

  Residents who were falsely accused of defrauding Michigan's unemployment benefits system have won another legal victory. The state appeals court ruled Thursday that their lawsuit seeking damages from the state should proceed. 

The 3-0 decision came after the Michigan Supreme Court in April decided in favor of the plaintiffs on a separate issue. 

Two state Environmental Quality department employees have been fired and several others disciplined after an audit found nearly $34,000 was paid for unperformed work hours.

Michigan's auditor general also said in a report Friday that three of the BioWatch Unit workers improperly used state vehicles.

Investigators looked into activities of four employees and said they took extended lunch breaks and left work early. Personal stops also were made at retail stores and other locations while on state time. On occasion, state vehicles were parked overnight at homes.

Michigan's unemployment benefits agency would assess smaller penalties on jobless workers who are found to have committed fraud under newly introduced bipartisan legislation.

The change is included in an eight-bill package unveiled by lawmakers Thursday.

The measures were drafted in response to the Unemployment Insurance Agency falsely accusing tens of thousands of beneficiaries of fraud. A new state law prohibits fraud determinations based solely on computer-identified discrepancies.

Scales of Justice photo
Tim Evanson via Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0 /

The ex-wife of a former police chief who used her husband's health insurance after they divorced in 2014 has been sentenced for health care fraud. Christine Reiss says she thought a jury would find her innocent. She was sentenced Thursday to 50 days in jail, with credit for 50 days she spent behind bars while awaiting sentencing. She also was placed on probation and must complete community service. She paid $110,000 in restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Michigan will be unable to rule that someone committed unemployment benefits fraud unless a state worker verifies it under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The law OK'd Monday prohibits what's known as "auto-adjudication." It codifies a change the state Unemployment Insurance Agency put in place in 2015 after thousands of people receiving jobless benefits were mistakenly accused of fraud by a computer system.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration announced last week that the director of the agency was reassigned in the wake of criticism over the problem.

Former 'Survivor' contestant gets prison for child porn

Dec 27, 2016

A former contestant of the CBS TV show "Survivor" has been sentenced to at least a year in prison for possessing child pornography. 

Michael Skupin appeared Tuesday in Oakland County court in suburban Detroit. He asked for mercy from the judge and said he's "deeply sorry." In a separate case, he was placed on probation and ordered to pay $31,800 to victims of a financial scheme.

gavel and law book
SalFalko via Flickr | CC BY 3.0 /

A man who defrauded the matriarch of a prominent Michigan family out of $16 million has been sentenced to 3 ½ years in federal prison.

Robert Haveman's sentence Tuesday is significantly below the guidelines of six to seven years, although the guidelines aren't mandatory.

Prosecutors were seeking a "significant" period behind bars. Haveman for years handled money for Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen. She's the widow of businessman Edgar Prince and mother of Republican activist Betsy DeVos and Blackwater Worldwide founder Erik Prince.

Pixabay | CC BY 2.0 /

The office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says a Detroit-area charity with a mission of supporting firefighters and fire victims is closing after an investigation found it misled donors.

Schuette's office announced Thursday that Wyandotte-based Firefighters Support Services has agreed to dissolve within 60 days and its directors will pay $144,000 during the next three years.

Most will go to the American Red Cross' southeastern Michigan chapter for home fire relief.