Preliminary exams were set for March 18 before 34th District Court Judge David Parrott for two co-defendants accused of multiple 20-year felonies — embezzling almost $2 million from Archer Corporate Services (ACS), 6703 Haggerty Road, Van Buren Township.
One defendant, an officer in the firm, waived her preliminary exam and was bound over to circuit court for an arraignment on the information April 1.
Judge Parrott’s courtroom was set up for the second exam, with more than 3,800 pages of documents in binders on the prosecutor’s table. When court proceedings on other cases left this lengthy exam to begin after noon, a decision was made to move it until 9 a.m. March 20 as a stand-alone proceeding in Judge Parrott’s courtroom. A jury trial had been cancelled and the judge was available.
Court-appointed defense attorney Evan Callanan said his client resides in Pontiac and has to pick up her child at 1:30 p.m. State Prosecutor Lori A. Dawson said she has one witness that has to be on an airplane in the afternoon, but if he’s out of court by noon, he can make his flight.
About two hours of testimony from four witnesses were held March 20 and the exam will be completed at 2 p.m. April 8 for the final witness, Miss Jenkins, who will come into the courtroom from Birmingham, Alabama via Skype.
The co-defendant who waived her exam on March 18 was Lashantinette Daquette Obioha, 34, the former controller of ACS. She had posted her $100,000/10% bond and retained attorney Peter Samouris.
Obioha was charged with three counts of embezzlement, two of which were more than $100,000; five counts of forgery; two counts of false pretenses; identity theft; and using a computer to commit a crime (maximum imprisonment of 20 years or more).
The crime is dated as May 1, 2009 and the warrant was issued Nov. 20, 2014.
Co-defendant Marsha Sharlene Rutherford, 38, is charged with two counts of embezzlement for $100,000 or more, two counts of false pretenses for $100,000 or more, identity theft, and using a computer to commit a crime (maximum imprisonment of 20 years or more).
Date of crime is May 1, 2009; warrant issued Nov. 20, 2014.
Rutherford also has posted her $100,000/10% bond.
Van Buren Township Police Lt. Ken Floro, the police officer in charge of the case, was one of the witnesses on Friday.
First witness for the prosecution was Nadeem Mumad, chief operating officer of Archer Corporate Services (ACS). He testified after investigating they found when ACS checks were written to one vendor they were subsequently changed to alter the payee. He said a lot of checks were modified after the fact. The total was $1.8-$1.9 million.
He said Obioha, the controller, did not have authority to hire vendors or sign contracts or operating agreements. She over-extended her authority.
Dennis Archer, Jr.
Second witness was Dennis Archer, Jr., ACS owner and president. The firm was incorporated in June 2004 and it does marketing services for clients, including trade, warehouse and distribution of rebates and coupons. It does printing and marketing for General Motors and does all the posters and books for North America GM.
He said ACS does not hire trucking firms, but it does warehouse the iPads being sent to General Motors dealerships.
Archer said Archway is the company that manages the logistics, which ACS does not do.
He testified that Obioha wrote checks, balanced the checkbook, made payments electronically, but is not authorized to sign checks, which he and his partner do.
He testified she was not authorized to write checks to herself, to Harvest Time Ministries, Next Detroit, Blue Rose Group, Millenium Fund, Next Detroit Initiative, PHC Global LLC and others.
Obioha was not authorized to give a $1.4 million charitable grant to a small business, PHC Global. When asked about Porter Billing, Archer called it a “back-room company” that ACS never hired. Porter Billing pays a company for its accounts receivable and then collects on them. ACS never hired them, he said.
Prosecutor Dawson showed Archer some checks and he said it looked like his signature on the checks, but he didn’t sign any of them. He had reviewed all 198 checks presented and none of those signatures were his, he said.
He said he did not know Marsha Rutherford, PHC Global LLC or BNM Transportation, except as a result of these legal proceedings. ACS had no reason to hire a trucking company.
Prosecutor Dawson asked if Obioha was authorized to send ACS’s tax returns to Porter Billings and Archer said she wasn’t.
Dawson produced paperwork showing 1,108 Cadillac iPads being transported by BMN Transportation Services from Belleville to Proctor and Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati and a payment of $10,526 for the transport. He said there was never a truckload of iPads and ACS never had such a shipment.
Third witness was Michael Carr, CEO and one of the founders of ACS, a partner.
He did identify Marsha Rutherford in the courtroom.
“In late April 2004, you realized there was a problem, with fraudulent activities,” Prosecutor Dawson prompted and Carr told what happened.
He said one evening while he was driving home he got a call on his cell phone and he saw it was Shawn (Obioha), but a man’s voice was on the phone. It was her husband Jason, who asked Carr to meet him at their home.
“She gave me information,” Carr continued, telling what happened at Obioha’s home.
“What did you do?” Prosecutor Dawson asked.
“I asked her why she did what she told me,” Carr said. “Then I asked her to meet me in the office the next morning, on a Thursday. I called our attorney at Dickinson Wright and asked him for direction.”
Carr said at the meeting, Obioha gave him a sheet of paper with check amounts.
“We had her leave the office to investigate the full extent of the fraudulent activities. She gave us Marsha Rutherford’s address and bank account information,” Carr said.
He said they had a letter from Jason Jenks, attorney with Jenks & Jenks, demanding payment of $600,000 for an overdue outstanding balance for Porter Billing, a factoring company that advances money to clients against receivables.
Another exhibit produced by Prosecutor Dawson was an operating contract between BMN Transportation and ACS, which Carr said was presented by Obioha at the Thursday meeting. Also, the ACS tax returns for 2010, 11, and 12 were not authorized to send to Porter Billing for a credit check.
Carr also testified they did not authorize a $1.4 million small-business grant to PHC Global, LLC.
Carr testified ACS had Minority Business status since it began in 2004 and didn’t have to affiliate with anyone else because, “We ARE a minority business.”
Police Lt. Ken Floro
Fourth witness was VBT Police Lt. Ken Floro, who said his department received a report of crime activity on May 2, 2014 from Carr, concerning fraudulent activity and embezzlement at ACS.
Lt. Floro said originally they thought it was a few hundred thousand dollars but now it is just shy of $2 million.
He said his department checked into the situation and executed search warrants at the homes of Obioha and Rutherford, securing documents and electronic equipment. They conducted interviews.
Lt. Floro said he interviewed Rutherford at the Van Buren Township Police Department. He said he read her her Miranda Rights on May 9, 2014 and she agreed to talk to him.
“She had an understanding of why she was there because she was a suspect in fraudulent/embezzlement activity at ACS,” Lt. Floro testified.
She said she got a private grant for Millenium, a double minority.
Lt. Floro identified the two business cards Rutherford gave him: One for BMN Transportation, which had her name on it as CEO and founder, and the other for PHC Global, which read “President and Owner” but had no name.
Lt. Floro said Rutherford said she became available as a vendor for PHC Global for ACS. He said she told him BMN Transportation was her company and was on an approved vendor list and shipped items for ACS on a regular basis.
Lt. Floro said the interview was cut short when Rutherford’s attorney arrived and asked him to stop speaking to her.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Callanan asked Lt. Floro about taking Rutherford into custody without a warrant for her arrest. Floro said the interview was not recorded and was 30-minutes long, at the most. He had written notes of what she told him which he used to authorize a warrant request.
Callanan said Rutherford told Floro that she had a legally binding contract and there was no scheme to embezzle.
“She admits no wrong-doing to you,” Callanan said and Floro agreed.
Editor’s Note: Prosecutor Dawson said why Obioha revealed information to Carr on the embezzlement is not yet public record so she couldn’t explain it yet.