Government, Law, and Nonprofits

Commissioner charged with felonies over cemetery plots

February 3, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Commissioner charged with felonies over cemetery plots
Michael Wawee, Jr.’s mug shot.

A Kent County commissioner was arrested and charged with embezzlement and false pretenses — in connection with his job selling cemetery plots for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Commissioner Michael Wawee, Jr. remains lodged in Kent County Jail today after being arrested this morning.

The Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office, which has been appointed by the Michigan Attorney General’s office to handle the case because Wawee is a Kent County commissioner, said the embezzlement is less than $20,000 from a nonprofit or charitable organization, a felony punishable by 10 years and/or $15,000 fine.

The second count is using false pretenses to acquire less than $20,000, a felony punishable by 5 years in prison or a fine of $10,000.

According to Carl Apple, communications director for the Diocese, Wawee, 43, has been a member of the Diocese cemeteries staff for more than 20 years, serving in a sales capacity.

Apple said Wawee has been placed on administrative leave, while the Diocese reviews his employment status.

On his Facebook page, Wawee lists his employment as director of family services at the Diocese, which Apple said is “technically correct,” however, his specific job is as a sales associate with the cemeteries division.

“The charges (announced by the Montcalm County prosecutor) are related with his work with the cemetery, and the Diocese has been cooperating for many weeks with the Grand Rapids Police Department,” Apple said.

The Montcalm prosecutor said the investigation leading to the charges has been conducted by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Wawee, a Republican from Walker, was elected to the District 6 seat of the Kent County Commission in November 2010. He currently has a website called “Re-elect Michael Wawee for County Commissioner.”

Wawee is the second Kent County commissioner indicted on felony charges in the last few months. District 4 commissioner Gary Rolls resigned in December, because he is facing sexual misconduct charges.

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