|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
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
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
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!
Labels: Chasse Ballroom, Clarkston-Brandon Credit Union, embezzlement, Judge Joseph Fabrizio, Michael Lajoice, Michael Manley, Oakland County Circuit Court