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Kitchen embezzlement: Jury finds couple guilty

September 27, 2012
By Jenny Lancour - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - A jury declared a former Escanaba couple guilty of embezzling mortgaged property in Delta County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Donald George Smith, 47, and his wife, Sandra Kay Smith, 47, of Round Lake, Ill., were on trial for removing a custom-made kitchen from their foreclosed home on South 9th Street last year.

The jurors deliberated for about two hours before announcing they had reached a verdict Wednesday. The jury foreman first read Donald Smith's guilty verdict then read Sandra Smith's guilty verdict, declaring both decisions as unanimous.

The Smiths' attorney, Derek Swajanen of Marquette, requested the jurors confirm their individual verdicts. Each jury member declared each defendant guilty when Judge Stephen Davis asked for verdicts.

Davis instructed the Smiths, who have been free on bond since their arrests, to get their personal affairs in order in the event their sentencings include jail time. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7 in circuit court. The trial began on Tuesday with witness testimony from First Bank officials, a neighbor who lived by the Smiths, and the Escanaba Public Safety detective who investigated the case.

Wednesday's court proceedings continued with Det. Sgt. Tony LaPlant's testimony followed by the cabinet maker who installed the custom kitchen. The business owner and an employee, from where the Smith's granite countertop was purchased, also took the stand. A relative of the Smiths' testified and an employee from where the Smith's rented a U-Haul also offered testimony.

Investigation into the case began in the summer of 2011 after bank officials saw the kitchen cabinets and appliances had been removed from the home. The property had been foreclosed and sold on a sheriff's sale earlier that year. The custom kitchen was valued at more than $30,000.

The Smiths were arrested in January, each on one count of embezzling mortgaged property valued at $1,000 to less than $20,000. The felony carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.



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