ESCANABA - The former mayor of Escanaba has pleaded not guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 while he was secretary for a local service club.
Leo Evans, 58, of 212 S. 12th St., Escanaba, was arrested Monday for embezzling from the Escanaba Eagles Club during a three-year period, according to Michigan State Police from the Iron Mountain Post, the investigating agency.
"Evans is facing a 20-year felony," explained Det. Sgt. Chris Bracket from the Iron Mountain Post. The charge also has a maximum fine of $50,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.
For the past three months, the state police have been investigating Evans' alleged misuse of funds from the local Eagles Club from 2011 to 2014.
Three months ago, Evans resigned as mayor pro tem from the Escanaba City Council. He stated in his resignation letter that he was leaving due to an upcoming issue. Council accepted his resignation at its April 3 meeting.
Evans had served on city council for 18 years including several years he served as mayor.
Bracket stated In a news release that Evans was arrested Monday, then arraigned in Delta County District Court. He was released from police custody after posting $500 - 10 percent of a $5,000 cash bond - the same day.
According to court records, the arrest warrant against Evans was authorized by the county prosecutor on Friday. Bracket arrested him at his home on Monday. Evans appeared in district court with his attorney, Jayne Mackowiak of Escanaba, later Monday when he pleaded not guilty to one count of embezzlement $100,000 or more.
Evans then waived his preliminary examination, automatically binding over the embezzlement charge to circuit court where he may schedule a trial or make a plea.
According to Trevor Sebeck, the current secretary for the Escanaba Eagles Club, Evans resigned from the secretary position and the organization after trustees confronted him in March about the alleged misuse of club funds.
A local store had alerted club members about suspicious checks Evans was allegedly cashing, he said.
"Nobody really saw it coming," Sebeck said Tuesday. "It was someone you really trusted."
Sebeck added the issue is a learning experience for the club, which has stepped up its procedures within the organization.
"We're trying to get things back in order," he added.
According to the Fraternal Order of Eagles' website, the club is "an international non-profit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope."
The website also states, "F.O.E. donates more than $100 million a year to local communities, fundraisers, charities and more. As part of its philosophy, the F.O.E. gives back 100 percent of monies raised in the form of grants."
Fundraisers are conducted for major charities including kidney, heart, diabetes, cancer and spinal cord injury funds, a children's fund, memorial foundation and the Golden Eagle Fund, the website reads.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com