Rep. Brian Banks on Tuesday was charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor by the Department of Attorney General with just five weeks to go until a competitive Democratic primary in the 1st House District, where he is seeking re-election.
The felonies against Mr. Banks (D-Harper Woods) stem from a June 2010 incident in which he allegedly submitted fake pay stubs when applying for a personal loan, some two years before Mr. Banks was elected to the House. Mr. Banks has been convicted of several felonies involving bad checks, but has since been elected to the House twice.
The charges filed Tuesday in Wayne County include three felonies: two counts of uttering and publishing, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and one count of false pretenses involving $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or $10,000. The misdemeanor charge is for false statements/financial condition, punishable by one year in prison or $1,000. Mr. Banks is also being charged as a four-time habitual offender, which could mean an enhanced sentence of up to life in prison. (Subscribers please note: a News Update sent Tuesday afternoon incorrectly said Mr. Banks was charged with four felonies).
Mr. Banks attorney, Ben Gonek, did not respond for a request for comment, but told The Detroit News that the charges were politically motivated given the timing and "ridiculous nature."
The charges stem from an incident in June of 2010 where Mr. Banks applied for a $7,500 loan from the Detroit Metropolitan Credit Union (now Diversified Members Credit Union). Mr. Banks submitted pay stubs from IHI Attorneys + Consultants, which stated his salary was $92,400.
He told the credit union the loan was for a bar preparation course and in the end was given a $3,000 loan, which Mr. Banks did not pay back until a lawsuit was filed against him by the credit union. He paid 90 percent of the loan plus interest as part of the lawsuit.
According to the charging document, Peter Ackerly, an investigator with the Department of Attorney General assigned to the FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, interviewed a witness who said she created the IHI firm and created the paystubs, though the company never paid anyone. Mr. Banks paid her between $25 and $100 to create the pay stubs, the witness said.
The witness said she provided Mr. Banks with the letter verifying his employment but did not sign it. The charging document said it was signed by a Holly Reimbernt when Mr. Banks submitted it to the credit union.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said in a statement he cannot comment on the incident the charges stem from because they dealt with a time when Mr. Banks was not yet in office.
"However, I can say that during his time in office, Representative Brian Banks has proven himself to be a hard-working advocate for the people of the 1st House District, and I know he will continue that work for his constituents," Mr. Greimel said.
Pamela Sossi, a Harper Woods Democrat who has been the most vocal and organized of those seeking the nomination against Mr. Banks, called the charges a "shocking turn of events." But she said the people of the 1st House District deserve honest and ethical representation, which she could provide for all constituents, she said.
She did not criticize the timing of the charges nor the fact that they stem from an incident predating Mr. Banks' time in office.
"It is not a concern for me that it was before (he) was in office, it just shows a pattern of activity that seems consistent with his already preexisting record," she said.
William Broman, a Grosse Pointe Woods Republican running in the safe Democratic seat, said he could provide better representation to the district.
"It is unfortunate that we must continue to question the integrity of elected leadership in the first district," he said in reaction to the charges.
The Department of Attorney General did not respond to a message with questions about when the arraignment would take place and the timing of the charges in the middle of a heated election.