BAY CITY, MI — The former owner of a Bay City real estate firm accused of stealing a six-figure sum has foregone his right to a trial by accepting a plea deal.
Ivan L. Miller II, 48, on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 22, appeared before Bay County Circuit Judge Joseph K. Sheeran and pleaded no contest to one count of larceny by conversion of $20,000 or more. The charge is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, or three times the value of what was stolen.
In exchange, the prosecution agreed to dismiss a count of embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000. That charge is a 15-year felony.
Miller was arraigned on the charges in April. He previously owned Top Producers Real Estate, 415 S. Euclid Ave.
Miller, flanked by attorneys Matthew B. Hewitt and Adam C. Reddick, only spoke to answer the judge’s yes-or-no questions. By pleading no contest, Miller did not verbally admit to having committed a crime. Sheeran had to rely on police reports contained in court files to enter a conviction on the record.
Those reports state police began investigating Miller in February. Patricia M. Windiate-Kusch, a broker with Top Producers, visited the Bay County Law Enforcement Center on Feb. 24 to file a larceny complaint against Miller. She told police that Miller contacted her on Feb. 21 and said he “did something very bad.”
Windiate-Kusch went on to say Miller had told her he had received a check for a property closing at in the 500 block of Handy Drive in Bay City, had the purchaser sign it over to him and then he deposited the funds into Top Producers’ general account. When Windiate-Kusch asked him what he did with the funds, he replied, “I spent them,” she told police.
Miller did not elaborate to Windiate-Kusch how he spent the money, court records show. Miller went on to tell her he was working with the buyer and the seller and that “we’re working it out and it’s going to be OK.”
Windiate-Kusch said the funds should have been deposited into a trust account.
She contacted the firms’ attorney, who advised her to close the business, police said. She also froze the business’ general and trust accounts and changed the locks on the doors.
A detective on Feb. 28 interviewed Bethany Westin, who has power-of-attorney for her parents Henry and Patricia Miller and was buying the property on Handy Drive. Westin said the closing was initially set for Feb. 7.
Miller called her and told her to have a check for $84,913.70 made out to Superior Title, which she did from her parents’ account. Westin also obtained a $4,000 cashier’s check from a different credit union for the remainder of the purchase.
Westin told police Miller wanted to see if there was a different way to pay for the home, according to police reports.
“Ivan told me that it may take up to 10 days for the (the larger) check to clear if it was written to Superior Title and the closing was scheduled seven days away,” she told police. “Ivan told me that he would call … the financial manager … that handled my parents’ account. Ivan then told me that the check was going to be made out in my name and could be picked up on Feb. 10.
On Feb. 10, Westin brought the check and the cashier’s check to the Top Producers office and met with Miller. At that time, Miller told her he could deposit the nearly $85,000 into the Top Producers’ trust account so that the funds would be available at closing. She agreed and gave Miller the checks.
A day later, on Feb. 11, Miller called Westin and said more time was needed for the check to clear. She met him four days later on Feb. 15 to get the house’s keys to let flooring contractors inside, but the next day, he wanted the keys back.
As this was transpiring, the closing date kept being moved back, court records show.
Miller on Feb. 21 contacted Westin and said the money in Top Producer’s account had been tampered with, Westin told police. He went on to say necessary taxes hadn’t been taken out and he didn’t have the funds to give the seller — something he did not anticipate happening. He needed two to three more weeks for the funds to go through, he told her.
“Ivan started crying and said that he screwed up and if this gets out, it could ruin him,” Westin told police. “Ivan said that he may never be able to sell again.”
In March, Top Producers closed and re-opened as Century 21 Signature.
Miller is to remain free on bond pending sentencing at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 3.