Former state employee pleads guilty to embezzlement

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A former employee of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) plead guilty to embezzling money from the State.

Joseph Pettit is facing multiple charges, namely two counts of embezzlement over $100,000 and one count of uttering and publishing.

“This plea brings us one step closer to securing accountability in this case, and therefore, justice for the people of Michigan,” Nessel said. “State employees serve the many operations that keep Michigan running for our millions of residents. Abusing that responsibility will not be tolerated by my office.” 

The embezzlement felonies are punishable up to 20 years, with fines up to $50,000 or three times the value of money embezzled. Uttering and publishing carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Pettit worked as an environmental quality specialist, where he was in charge of giving bonds back to entities that wanted to drill or have any kind of well. Pettit would create fake vendors and put the funds into bank accounts that he supplied for the vendors.

After noticing discrepancies in Sept. 2020, EGLE contacted Michigan State Police (MSP) to launch an investigation.

Pettit worked for EGLE from 1996 until January 2020.

“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,” EGLE Director Liesl 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 a plea deal, Pettit is expected to serve prison time, which will be determined at sentencing. Pettit is responsible for full restitution, which totals to $855,690.

Pettit is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m. 

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