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Lee Chatfield, former Michigan House Speaker, charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, embezzlement

Note: This story was updated to correctly reflect the amount that Chatfield is alleged to have misappropriated from the Peninsula Fund.

Lee Chatfield, former Republican Speaker of the Michigan House, was indicted on 13 charges Tuesday following a years-long investigation into allegations of campaign finance violations and sexual misconduct.

The charges were announced in Lansing by Attorney General Dana Nessel. She said that Chatfield used campaign funds to cover numerous personal expenses, including luxury shopping, expensive meals and vacations with family members.


The charges include conducting a criminal enterprise, embezzlement from a nonprofit between $1,000 and $20,000, and embezzlement from a public official over $50. Each of the charges is a felony that could result in 10 years or more of incarceration, with the criminal enterprise charge possibly resulting in 20 years.

“Lee Chatfield used various different schemes to embezzle, steal and convert both private and public monies to fund a lavish lifestyle that a state salary could not possibly afford,” Nessel said.

The investigation into Chatfield’s alleged sexual abuse of Rebekah Chatfield, Lee Chatfield’s sister-in-law who accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor, was closed without any charges. Nessel said that prosecutors didn’t feel they could meet the legal burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed.

Nessel said that Chatfield took thousands from the Peninsula Fund in his time in Lansing, a nonprofit organization that isn’t required to publicly report donors. Nessel said that Chatfield used the money to, among other allegations, pay off a $132,000 personal credit card balance, falsify over $12,000 in taxpayer-reimbursed mileage and pay for trips to Universal Studios and the Bahamas with family and political partners.


Two of Chatfield’s charges are for larceny rather than embezzlement, which could be pursued under an alternative legal theory.

Stephanie Chatfield, Lee Chatfield’s wife, has also been charged with two counts of embezzlement.

The Levering Republican held the speakership from 2019-2020 before he left office due to term limits. Nessel said the investigation into Chatfield’s finances remains ongoing.

Jamie White, attorney for Rebekah Chatfield, said that she was disappointed to see the sexual assault allegations


“I spoke to Rebekah this morning, and she was shattered to learn that her abuser has continued to escape justice for his sexual crimes. For her, today’s news was a crushing blow,” he said in a statement. “To say she was deeply disappointed to learn that the man who sexually abused her as a child will not be held accountable for that act is a serious understatement.”

Chatfield has previously denied the allegations of sexual assault and has said the two had a consensual affair.

Late last year, two top aides of Chatfield were charged with embezzlement and conducting a criminal enterprise. Nessel accused Anne and Rob Minard, a married couple who served as director of external affairs and chief of staff for Chatfield respectively, of misappropriating over $500,000 for personal gain.

Nessel said at the time that lackluster state campaign finance laws allowed for their actions to occur without effective barriers. She had even harsher words today for the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, which she called “inept” and said allowed for bad actors to easily abuse the system for personal gain.


“The Michigan Campaign Finance Act is effectively toothless, useless and utterly worthless as a deterrent to these crimes,” she said. “The statutes governing political funds and donor disclosures couldn’t be more futile if they were literally drafted by crooks for the very purpose of violating them.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson shared similar sentiments following the announcement of Chatfield’s charges.

“The fact that the alleged financial crimes, including the egregious and blatant embezzlement of taxpayer dollars and nonprofit funds for personal gain and enrichment, were able to go undetected for so long underscores the failure of our current rules in state government.”

Chatfield is the second Michigan speaker to be charged in recent years. Rick Johnson, a former Republican representative who served as Speaker of the House in the early 2000s and later as the chair of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, was charged in a bribery scheme and sentenced to more than four years in prison last year.

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