Richard Laurence Hartwick leaves the podium in St. Clair County District Judge Cynthia Platzer's courtroom after a probable cause hearing Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Hartwick, a former accountant with the Blue Water Center for Independent Living, has been charged with embezzling more than $1 million during his employment with the nonprofit. (Photo: Brian Wells/Times Herald)
A 71-year-old Okemos man pleaded guilty to six felonies Monday related to the embezzlement of more than $1 million from a local nonprofit.
Richard Hartwick plead guilty to one count of embezzlement involving $100,000 or more, one count of fraudulent access of a computer, one count of using a computer to do a crime, one count of financial transaction forgery, one count of forgery or alteration of a financial transaction device, one count of conducting a criminal enterprise and one count of criminal enterprise involving racketeering proceeds.
One count for accounting violations was dismissed.
Hartwick could face life in prison or any term of years due to his habitual offender status.
In submitting his guilty plea, Hartwick confirmed he had worked at Blue Water Center of Independent Living for more than a decade.
He did financial consulting and basic accounting, which gave him access to the organization's books and finances. Hartwick acknowledged the embezzlement had begun years ago, when he forged signatures and used a computer to transfer money without his employer's permission.
Prosecutor Amy Stover said a preliminary investigation by Michigan State Police and Blue Water Independent living put the value of the embezzled funds at more than $1 million. Hartwick said he had no reason to disagree with that assessment. She asked if he had provided some of those funds to family members, including Hartwick's son, to which he said yes.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 22 in front of Judge Michael West's Courtroom.
According to its Facebook page, "The Blue Water Center for Independent Living is a consumer driven organization that advocates, informs and supports all people with disabilities to live independently."
Laura Steele, executive director for Blue Water Center for Independent Living, said the organized was pleased to see that Hartwick had plead guilty.
"We're a strong organization," Steele said. "We're moving forward and providing the services that we provide."
Steele said should could not comment on the possibility of restitution.
According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, Hartwick was sentenced on May 8, 2000, to two to 10 years in prison on a charge of embezzlement, agent or trustee more than $100. He served 18 months at Pine River Correctional Facility before being granted parole. Hartwick was paroled to the Tuscola/Caro field office before being discharged on Feb. 12, 2004, according to MDOC records.
Investigators have said Hartwick was convicted of embezzlement in 2000, suspected of having embezzled more than $3 million from an auto supplier in the Detroit area over six years.