Michigan State Police investigation of deputy sheds light on alleged insurance fraud
Investigation began more than a year ago, deputy not interviewed
OGEMAW COUTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The report from a Michigan State Police investigation into alleged insurance fraud involving an Ogemaw County sheriff deputy sheds new light on a crash involving his SUV.
ABC12 News obtained a copy of the Michigan State Police report through the Freedom of Information Act. The report was heavily redacted, but it provides some new details about the case.
The investigation started on March 4, 2020, which was less than a week before Michigan’s first confirmed COVID-19 illnesses were confirmed. The detective working the case classified it as a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, which is a felony in Michigan.
The alleged conspiracy involved Ogemaw County sheriff deputy Brian Gilbert Jr., whose 2010 GMC Yukon was totaled after a single-vehicle accident on Nov. 11, 2018. Gilbert is the son of current Ogemaw County Sheriff Brian Gilbert Sr., who took office on Jan. 1.
The Ogemaw County Sheriff’s Office asked the Michigan State Police to investigate after an allegation was made that a friend of Gilbert Jr., tow truck owner Michael Spencer, had actually driven Gilbert’s SUV into a tree with a dead deer strapped to it to do enough damage to total the Yukon.
Some of the evidence in the report are text messages between Spencer and his now ex-wife, Trista Smith-Spencer.
The report states that Gilbert was contacted by the state police detective, but it appears he did not agree to be interviewed and referred the detective to his attorney, Duane Hadley. Spencer appears to have been interviewed by the detective, but the entire discussion is redacted in the police report.
The report indicates an insurance claim was made on the SUV and the vehicle was paid off, but it’s not clear who made the payments or who received them because names are redacted.
The Michigan State Police report has been on the desk of Arenac County Prosecutor Curt Broughton for close to three months. He will decide whether any criminal charges will be issued.
Gilbert Sr. is expected to appear at the Ogemaw County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday. Commissioners asked him to provide a report on the department’s handling of the insurance fraud probe of his son and other misconduct allegations against deputies by Friday.
The Ogemaw County Sheriff’s Office also is named in allegations that deputies repeatedly violated policies by directing towing business away from D&N Garage south of West Branch. The company is co-owned by Smith-Spencer and Jake Francisco.
They claim Ogemaw County deputies sent business to Michael Spencer’s towing company based in Arenac County instead in an effort to put D&N Garage out of business.
If Gilbert Sr. does not provide the report for commissioners by Friday, the board claims it has the authority to remove him from office with a two-thirds vote. Hadley, the attorney for Gilbert Jr., said the allegations against his client are baseless.
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