2018-02-08 / News

Clerk, Shriners ask politicians to return money

By Gary Gould
810-452-2650 • ggould@hihomepaper.com

FLINT — The Elf Khurafeh Shriners want any politician who accepted campaign donations from convicted embezzler Nick Singelis II to return the money they say was stolen from their organization.

Singelis was convicted and sentenced to two years in Federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. In a plea bargain in September, he pled guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit a crime against the United States of America.

Singelis, and an unnamed cohort, were also ordered to pay $589,491.44 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker, in January. The reason the cohort is not named in court documents has not be explained by officials.

But Genesee County Clerk John J. Gleason and Flint Attorney Robert Swartwood, who is legal counsel for the Shriners, said they want the money Singelis stole returned to the Shriners because they believe some of it was donated to area political campaigns.

Swartwood also said the Shriners will continue to pursue “a person of interest” who may have been an accessory to Singelis’ crime.

"The Shriners perspective is this crook was stealing from crippled and sick children," said Swartwood, at a press conference held with Gleason, Feb. 2. “We are just beginning. We can’t talk about his co-conspirator, the case still has a ways to go.”

Swartwood said the amount of money Singelis took is much greater than the amount in the Federal case. In 2014, a judge ordered Singelis to pay $1.8 million following a lawsuit alleging he embezzled money from the Shriners while he worked for the organization.

A default judgment was entered against Singelis in Genesee County Circuit Court after he failed to show up to a hearing.

The Shriners filed the complaint after Singelis filed a whistleblower lawsuit that accused the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple in Clio of allowing illegal sexual activities to take place during an initiation ceremony held in 2012, at the organization's Vienna Township facility.

Shriners have denied the allegations. The case was closed after a judge entered the default judgment.

The matter was brought to the attention of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, before it was handed off to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Circuit court records show the Shriners claim Singelis spent the Shriners' money on a variety of items, but Swartwood and Gleason say there is evidence he also paid money to area political campaigns to gain influence. As many as 50 politicians may have accepted money from Singelis.

“If you took money from Singelis, you should give it back,” said Gleason, who did not name any politicians. “You should cooperate in every way because we are going to scrutinize the records.”

When candidates accept donations, they are required to submit documentation with the clerk’s office under campaign finance laws. Those records, Gleason said, are open to the public.

“This man (Singelis) is a crook of the lowest standard,” said Swartwood. “He stole from sick and handicapped children. Helping those kids is what being a Shriner is all about. So if you took money from him, you should return it to the Shriners. We don’t want to have to do this the hard way.”

Swartwood did not say how long his organization would give those named in campaign finance documents to give back the money before they publicly named them.

Gleason said the documents are open to anyone who wants to come into the clerk’s office in Flint to review them.

Singelis is currently in prison in Michigan awaiting processing into the federal prison system.

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