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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Clarkston Credit Union Chief Charged With Embezzling Millions

Clarkston Judge Joe Fabrizio
Earlier this month, everyone took note of the Powerball lottery, especially when the prize eclipsed a billion dollars. Easy money if you are the lucky winner.
With all that going on, the latest case to catch our eye here at the Law Blogger is the local story of Michael LaJoice, a former CFO for the Clarkston-Brandon Credit Union and owner of the Chasse Ballroom. Rather than wait for a winning lottery ticket that may never come, Lajoice allegedly devised a plan to siphon huge amounts of cash from the credit union just up the road from our law firm.

In early January, Mr. LaJoice turned himself in to the Oakland County Sheriff's Department after an audit revealed inconsistencies in his accounting. Current criminal charges pending in Oakland County allege 14 felony counts that LaJoice embezzled over $100,000, which is a statutory threshold; the actual number could be well-over $30 million.
The case began right next door to our law office in Clarkston's 52-2nd District Court; Judge Joseph Fabrizio is presiding over the preliminary proceedings.
LaJoice is well-known in our neighborhood for his ownership and operation of the Chasse Ballroom and Latin Dance in Fenton, as well as LaJoice Properties, LLC. LaJoice purchased a lot for $1.2 million in downtown Fenton last June. Development of a new state-of-the-art dance studio on this lot was slated to begin in February, but we aren't holding our breath.
The popular Chasse Ballroom is now closed for business, with a sign on the door apologizing for the inconvenience. There is no word yet as to when LaJoice's business will reopen and the ubiquitous Chasse Ballroom billboards, TV commercials, and radio spots have all but disappeared.
Defending embezzlement cases requires a skilled attorney experienced in handling the volume of evidence generated by electronically transferring funds from multiple accounts. LaJoice is represented by our friend, Michael Manley, a prominent Genesee County defense attorney.
Manley has requested a competency exam for his client on the basis of LaJoice's emotional state combined with the magnitude of the alleged amount embezzled. If Manley convinces Clarkston Judge Joe Fabrizio that his client may be incompetent to stand trial, the court will order a forensic examination to aid in making a determination of LaJoice's mental competency.
Competency and sanity are two different things in the Michigan criminal justice system. The competency examination would determine whether LaJoice has a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him and whether he is able to rationally consult with his lawyer to assist in his defense. He will also likely be evaluated for criminal responsibility.
If the exam leads Judge Fabrizio to conclude that LaJoice is incompetent to stand trial [not likely in our opinion], the court then must determine whether there is a substantial possibility that he will become competent within the next 15-months. If that possibility exists, the court will order that LaJoice get the treatment necessary to become competent to stand trial.
If Manley's motion is granted, expect a lengthy delay in the case while LaJoice undergoes a detailed psychological examination. The Center for Forensic Psychiatry is not known for moving quickly, nor should it, given the important role its evaluations play in our legal system.
The amount of money allegedly embezzled in this case is staggering. Usually, such illegal gains come to light eventually, as in this case. With hindsight, LaJoice would have been better-off purchasing Powerball tickets, but then, of course, he would not have been the toast of the town over the past decade.
We here at the Law Blogger can’t help but wonder whether he now thinks it was worth it. What a colossal mess!
Post #518

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Blogger Unknown said...

"Competent" enough to have stolen/embezzled millions. He will look great in orange.

January 22, 2016 at 10:41 AM 

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