By Annette Christie
Mitchell takes plea deal; Two counts dropped
Kraig Mitchell, 33 of Kalamazoo, a former police officer has accepted a plea deal in connection with drug possession charges. In Judge Donna Howard’s courtroom last week, Mitchell pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, a 10-year felony and obstruction of justice, a 5-year felony. In the plea deal with the prosecutor’s office, the charges of possession of narcotics or cocaine less than 25 grams and possession of a controlled substance, analogues, was dismissed.
The four counts were related to the theft of controlled substances under the possession or control of the Coloma Township Police Department, where he worked as a patrolman. On January 10, 2017, he was discovered to be in possession of a heroin/fentanyl mix and codeine tablets.
Mitchell is charged with allegedly taking that mixture from the scene of an overdose death he participated in investigating that day in Coloma Township. Later the same day, it is alleged that Mitchell was found to be in possession of pills containing codeine (a schedule III controlled substance).
Court records state that Mitchell had admitted to a superior at the department that he worked at, that he had been stealing prescription medication out of the Med Drop Box located in the lobby of the police department. He also turned over a container with heroin and fentanyl in it that he admitted taking from the scene of a fatal drug overdose.
Mitchell’s attorney, Donald Sappanos, told the Court that Mitchell acknowledges having a drug problem and he is seeking help.
Mitchell will be sentenced on September 11.
Benton Harbor woman convicted of embezzlement from Coloma church
On January 18, 2017, the Coloma Township Police Department began an investigation into an embezzlement claim from the First Congregational United Church of Christ. A council member with the church told the police that the church treasurer was suspected of embezzling from the church and that she had admitted it to the Church Council at a meeting on January 17.
The church financial secretary provided police with copies of checks written to the treasurer Cecily Finehout or her husband. She said that Finehout was not authorized to write checks to herself. She told police that several members of the church were sending in their monthly pledges for several months; however the church had no record of the pledge being received even though the members showed that the checks had been cashed.
Cecily Finehout, 34, had been the church treasurer for about two years. In an interview with police, she admitted that she had been taking money from the First Congregational Church of Christ by writing unauthorized checks to herself from the church bank account at Chemical Bank. She stated that she had been changing and deleting documents in the accounting program, QuickBooks, so that the church would not realize the money was missing. She admitted that she had a spending problem and she used the money to pay bills.
In all, it was discovered that she had written 92 checks and made six debit transactions to either Cecily Finehout or her husband. The transactions occurred between March 2015 and January 2017. The total amount of the transactions was $43,913.63.
Finehout was found guilty on May 26. She was sentenced on June 26 by Judge Arthur Cotter to 30 days in jail or ordered to pay $42,055 in restitution. She will serve five years on probation and is ordered to pay fines and costs.
Watervliet Police Department Activity
While on patrol, Watervliet Police Department patrolman Kusmierski performed a traffic stop on July 21 near Congress and E. St. Joseph Street. Kusmierski determined that the driver of the vehicle, Garrett James Walker, 36, was found to have a warrant for his arrest out of the Coloma Township Police Department.
Walker was arrested on the warrant and was lodged at the Berrien County Jail.
On July 22, Patrolman McKamey made a traffic stop near Parsons and Main Street. The vehicle had an expired registration plate.
The driver, a 36-year-old male from Watervliet, was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant for driving with a suspended license and no insurance. He was lodged at the Berrien County Jail.