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Prosecutor: Ex-Chief’s $2.6 Million Theft Shows How Power Corrupts

April 27, 1992

DETROIT (AP) _ The city’s former police chief was so corrupted by power he stole $2.6 million from a secret police fund as easily ″as ordering a sandwich,″ a prosecutor said Monday in closing arguments.

″The chief could have burned the money and nobody would have known the difference,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Weier said. ″There are no records.″

William Hart served for 13 years as chief of the nation’s fifth largest city police force. He is charged with embezzling $1.3 million from a secret police fund and authorizing payments totaling another $1.3 million to phony corporations controlled by the former civilian deputy chief, Kenneth Weiner.

Weiner pleaded guilty and is serving a federal prison sentence. He didn’t testify against Hart in the three-month trial, at which more than 100 witnesses testified.

Closing arguments ended Monday. U.S. District Judge Paul Gadola said jurors would begin deliberations Tuesday after he gives them instructions.

The prosecutor said Hart, 68, had complete control over the department’s secret service fund, which was intended to pay informants and finance undercover drug purchases.

″If he spent over a million dollars in covert police operations, somebody would have known about it,″ Weier said.

Stealing the money was ″as easy as ordering a sandwich from a local delicatessen,″ he said. ″He could order up checks for $40,000 to go.″

But defense attorney Thomas Cranmer dismissed Weier’s argument as ″the sudden corruption theory.″

″That’s the government’s theory - that after over 30 years of dedicated work in law enforcement - that overnight he becomes corrupt,″ Cranmer said in his closing.

He described Hart as an honest but inept administrator who was baffled by paperwork and betrayed by subordinates.

″If that was a crime, I think a third or half of corporate America would be in jail,″ Cranmer said.

Witnesses included retired patrolman Robert Cudini, who said that while he was doing remodeling work at Hart’s home a package containing $20,000 fell through the ceiling and hit him on the head.

″You found my poker stash,″ he quoted Hart as saying.

Three women testified they had affairs with Hart and that he lavished them with expensive trips and gifts such as a fur coat and electronics equipment.

Hart also is charged with witness tampering for allegedly persuading one of the women to lie to a grand jury.

Hart’s wife, Laura, testified she and her husband were able to live above their means because she saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

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