Former Michigan House leader and wife charged with financial crimes for misuse of political funds

LANSING, MI — Prosecutors charged the former Michigan House leader and his wife with financial crimes Tuesday, alleging they milked political bills for personal travel, housing and other benefits while the Republican lawmaker held the powerful post.

Lee Chatfield misused his multibillion-dollar Peninsula Fund, which was not required to disclose the names of donors and acted as an “unregulated slush fund,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

“The misuse of Social Security funds is not a new practice in Lansing,” Nessel, a Democrat, told reporters. “No political party has abused it.”

Chatfield faces 13 charges, including conducting a criminal enterprise, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The investigation began in 2022 when Chatfield’s sister-in-law publicly said he sexually assaulted her. He has denied the allegations and said it was a consensual affair. Investigators eventually expanded the case beyond these claims.

Nessel said there was insufficient evidence to charge Chatfield based on Rebekah Chatfield’s allegations, although she praised her courage for coming forward.

“Without her, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” the attorney general said.

Chatfield’s attorney, Mary Chartier, said she will fight the charges “every step of the way.”

“It took almost two and a half years for the AG’s office to issue charges. It’s going to be pretty thin if it goes on that long,” she said.

Chatfield’s wife, Stephanie Chatfield, also faces charges. A message seeking comment from her attorney, Matt Newburg, was not immediately returned.

Two people who were top aides to Chatfield when he led the House of Representatives were charged last year with crimes including embezzlement of nonprofit funds created for political purposes. Rob and Anne Minard have pleaded not guilty.


White reported from Detroit.