AG Nessel Accuses Ex-Michigan Speaker Lee Chatfield and Wife of Being Crooks and Stealing Political Funds

April 16, 2024, 3:05 PM by  Allan Lengel


Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday charged ex-Republican Michigan Speaker Lee Chatfield with 13 counts of corruption for allegedly stealing political nonprofit monies "to fund a lavish lifestyle that a state salary could not possibly afford." His wife Stephanie also faces charges.  

The criminal counts include embezzlement and conducting a criminal enterprise. The probe remains active, Nessel said at an afternoon Lansing press conference.

"We have definitely not ruled out additional charges against the Chatfields and many others."

Nessel said the embezzled money was used to pay for luxury shopping, fine dining and extended vacations in swanky hotels in various spots including the Bahamas and Universal Studios in Florida. 

"It is not an exaggeration to say the his employees, friends anad family all benefited from the extravagant misspending of these funds," she said. Chatfield, 35, was first elected to the House from the 107th House district in Northern Michigan in 2015 and was Speaker of the House in the years 2019 and 2020. He and his wife have four sons and one daughter.

Nessel said the schemes included using a political fund, The Peninsula Fund, a not-for-profit social welfare organization, to pay $132,000 in credit card bills. He also used a "check kickback" scheme, Nessel said, which involved writing checks from funds to an associate or relative. He then took back cash to spend for personal matters, and the expenses were reported as work related.

"As speaker of the House to call him as many have a prodigious fundraiser would not be an exaggeration," Nessel said, explaining that the Peninsula Fund was established around 2017.

She said it was the type of fund "commonly misused as a political slush fund to accomplish the legal types of bribery Lansing has become accustomed to. There's not a lot you can't do with dollars in such an account provided your record keepers, accountants or law firms handling the funds are creative or clever enough for your taste."

Nessel said the embezzlement investigation evolved from a Michigan State Police probe in 2022 into Chatfield following a scandalous complaint filed by his sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, who accused him of sexually abusing her since she was 15. 

Nessel said Tuesday the sexual assault investigation has been closed without charges.



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