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McLain Indicted in Pension Scheme

May 10, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ Denny McLain, who won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, bought a condominium in Puerto Rico and covered expenses for his private plane with funds stolen from a meat company pension plan, a federal indictment released Thursday alleges.

McLain and two business partners are accused of transferring more than $12 million of pension plan money from Peet Packing Co. in Chesaning to Michigan National Bank, then converting $3 million of that for personal and Peet Packing use.

McLain, 52, of Brighton, already has served 2 1/2 years in prison on a racketeering, extortion and drug charges. In this latest matter, he was charged on five counts of conspiracy, theft of pension plan money, mail fraud and money laundering.

The money laundering charge carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison and fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater. The other counts are punishable by five years and $250,000 fines.

Also charged were Roger Smigiel, 44, of Rochester Hills; and Jeffrey Egan, 35, of Bloomfield Hills.

The three are expected to appear in court Monday, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sandy Palazzolo said.

McLain has said the transfers were made by the partners without knowledge they might be breaking rules.

``There was no intention to do anything wrong,″ he said earlier. ``We took nothing from anybody.″

McLain’s lawyer, David DuMouchel, said his client doesn’t dispute many of the events outlined in the indictment.

``Now that we see specifically what the allegations are, Denny can have the opportunity to explain what did and didn’t happen,″ DuMouchel said.

The indictment said the stolen funds also went to pay for the operating expenses and pilot’s salary for McLain’s private plane, a country club membership for Smigiel and to cover the payroll of employees of other companies owned by the two.

When asked how these purchases could be explained, DuMouchel said: ``They’ll be explained.″

Mark Steckloff, an attorney for the pension fund, said he expects to file a civil lawsuit against McLain and others this month seeking to recover money looted from the fund.

The fund, now administered by a board of trustees, is making payments to about 500 former Peet Packing employees who qualify for pension payments. But future funding could be affected if the lost money isn’t recovered.

McLain and Smigiel appointed themselves trustees of the Peet Packing retirement income plan two weeks after buying the company in January 1994. Egan formed two ``shell corporations″ in the meantime, U.S. Attorney Saul Green said.

McLain’s position as trustee was illegal because he is an ex-convict, Green said.

He was released from federal prison in 1987. He had been sentenced to 23 years but an appeals court ruled he didn’t get a fair trial.

In South Carolina, McLain was ordered in December to pay $75,000 to former business partners for a radio station deal gone sour.

McLain pitched for the Tigers from 1963-70. In 1968, he led the Tigers to a World Series title and won the Cy Young Award.

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