Macomb judge frees veteran jailed over $6M missing from mother’s estate
Macomb County Probate Judge Sandra Harrison ordered the release of Fred Smith, who lives in Bruce Township, but with a stern warning that if he doesn’t account for the missing funds, he will find himself back behind bars.
Smith, who spoke to The News shortly after his release from the Macomb County jail Friday, denied he has mishandled his mother’s estate, calling such allegations “absurd.”
“I’m an honorable man,” said Smith. “Everything they said is false. I have never mishandled (the estate). Not one penny. I’m an Eagle Scout Triple Palm. I have been wronged and the truth will come out.”
Smith was jailed for 79 days for contempt of court for allegedly refusing to tell the judge and a trustee where the money from the estate of his 92-year-old mother, Shelby Smith-Steves, has gone. Smith controlled his mother’s estate for 10 years as the trustee. At issue is how the money was spent between 2005 and 2008, said George Heitmanis, an attorney who is the current trustee.
Harrison said she has given Smith plenty of chances to tell how the money was spent. Smith has been fined $100,000 for allegedly failing to comply with the court’s request for information on how he handled the funds from his mother’s estate.
“I’ve fined you. I’ve surcharged you. I’m going to give you 90 days to file the accounting,” Harrison told Smith.
Heitmanis said Friday and during a Dec. 12 hearing that Smith has spent money “on toys” like expensive cars and a motorcycle business and has eluded persistent questions about his mother’s missing money.