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April 14, 2021
LANSING – 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 today.
Joseph Pettit, 49, 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.
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"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.
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"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.
Please note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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