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FBI asked to take over probe into finances of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been asked to take over the criminal probe into potential financial mismanagement at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Michigan State Police opened an investigation last week after a law firm hired by the conservancy presented “evidence of financial wrongdoing” amid the suspension of Chief Financial Officer William A. Smith, according to a statement released Tuesday from the nonprofit’s board chair, Matt Cullen.

“The State Police have advised us that due to the nature and complexity of the situation they have turned the investigation over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Cullen, who also formerly led real estate company Bedrock Detroit. “We are cooperating with authorities and are determined to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this matter.”

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Chief Financial Officer William Smith speaks during a press conference on May 12, 2021. The nonprofit announced last week it put Smith on unpaid leave amid a criminal investigation into the conservancy’s finances.

Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw confirmed the investigation was transferred to the FBI “as they are better suited for a long term white (collar) crime” case, he said.

Smith could not be reached for comment. He has been placed on unpaid leave pending the investigation that was launched last week and the organization has hired an outside firm – Quatrro Business Support Solutions – to oversee day-to-day accounting and finance functions, Cullen said.

More: Detroit Riverfront CFO sidelined amid criminal investigation by Michigan State Police

He said in the statement that the group would provide details of “what happened, how it happened, and our full plans for moving forward” as soon as possible.

The nonprofit organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars from government, private, and philanthropic sources to develop 5.5 miles of riverfront between the Ambassador and Belle Isle bridges.

Smith has served as his CFO since at least 2015 and was earning $242,155 as recently as 2022, IRS records show.

He was sidelined following an independent audit requested when Cullen previously said he “became concerned about the accuracy of management reports and financial statements.” The findings were forwarded to law enforcement on the advice of the foreign law firm, Honigman, Cullen said.

Violet Ikonomova is an investigative reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: FBI asked to take over probe of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

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