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The case against Lee Chatfield: Fake mileage, kickbacks and Harry Potter trips

Lee Chatfield standing next to Rob Minard
Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and longtime aide Rob Minard, both pictured here, are facing corruption charges but have denied any criminal wrongdoing (File photo by Michigan House Republicans)
  • Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield accused of using taxpayer money, nonprofits and political funds for personal benefit
  • The Levering Republican faces 13 felony charges for alleged corruption and embezzlement
  • Chatfield’s attorney claims he’s the target of a ‘political prosecution’ by Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel

LANSING — Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield is accused of using tax dollars, kickbacks, fake mileage and political nonprofits to support a “lavish” lifestyle that included trips to Florida, the Bahamas and Las Vegas.

In laying out 13 felony charges against the Levering Republican, Attorney General Dana Nessel described in great detail how Chatfield allegedly used a social welfare nonprofit, the Peninsula Fund, and other means to “line his own pockets” and conduct a  “criminal enterprise.” 

The scheme paid for everything from dinner at a Harry Potter-themed restaurant in Florida, purchases at Ugg to kickbacks involving his brother, alleged Nessel, who is a Democrat who in 2021 described Chatfield as an unlikely friend.


His wife, Stephanie Chatfield, also faces charges. Both deny wrongdoing.


Nessel "chose to go after a 'prodigious fundraiser' — those were her words — for Republican candidates," Chatfield attorney Mary Chartier told Bridge Michigan. "Her motives in this political prosecution are clear, and they have nothing to do with integrity."

The case began when Chatfield’s sister in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, went to authorities alleging that he sexually assaulted her for more than a decade. The former speaker said they had a consensual affair, and Nessel said there was not enough evidence to bring charges.

Here are the central allegations, as outlined by Nessel and Special Agent Robert Menard, who authored a 19-page affidavit laying out the case against Chatfield:

An Orlando Trip, luxury purchases

The attorney general alleges Chatfield, with the help of his wife, paid off $132,000 in personal credit card charges using the Peninsula Fund, a nonprofit social welfare organization linked to longtime aide Anne Minard. She pleaded not guilty to related charges levied in December. 

Nessel’s office says the credit card charges included luxury goods from Ugg, Coach and a surf shop in Florida, along with gifts, food and drinks purchased during a November 2020 family trip to Universal Studios in Orlando. 

There, the Chatfield’s allegedly used their credit card at a Spider-Man souvenir shop, a Harry Potter-themed restaurant called Three Broomsticks and a Harry Potter-themed candy store called Honeydukes.

Around that time, Stephanie Chatfield, who investigators say oversaw the Peninsula Fund account balance, allegedly texted her husband: "I don't want to get caught come January with our tail between our legs and no money in the account to pay it off."

Chatfield’s term as House speaker ended Jan. 1, 2021.

Alleged kickbacks

Nessel alleges Chatfield and his associates used his Chatfield Fund political action committees and a charitable organization to write checks with directives for the recipient to return some of the money to the former House speaker. 

In all, investigators allege checks totaled more than $16,000 to his brothers or others as part of the scheme.

An affidavit quotes one brother, Aaron Chatfield, saying Lee told him  "I'm going to give you a check. You're going to give me a certain amount back. And then maybe the rest if needed." 

A Vegas tab

Authorities allege Chatfield and associates orchestrated “a scheme to use PAC money to pay for personal retail and bar expenses” on a trip to Las Vegas in late 2018. 

Those bills, totaling $1,645, were initially paid for by the Peninsula Fund nonprofit, according to the lead investigator. 

Anne Minard then allegedly wrote Aaron Chatfield a check for a similar amount, which he deposited and then withdrew $1,645, the same amount then deposited into Lee and Stephanie Chatfield’s account. Then, in December 2018, the attorney general’s office claims Anne Minard emailed the Peninsula Fund treasurer a $1,645 check from Lee and Stephanie Chatfield, calling it “reimbursement for the Vegas expense.”

Mileage claims, public funds

As a legislator, Chatfield was entitled to taxpayer funded mileage and gas reimbursement for travel between Lansing and his home district in northern Michigan, along with any miles logged in his district for official business. 

Nessel alleges Chatfield claimed mileage for trips he never took. All told, she said 21,280 of the miles Chatfield claimed between January 2019 and December 2020 were for trips he never made but led to $12,299.84 in reimbursements. 


In some cases, Chatifield’s calendar indicates he was out of state on days he was reimbursed for trips back home, according to court records. 

A lobbyist rental and sublease

Chatfield allegedly retained a Lansing apartment through Walnut Tree Properties, a company owned by the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association lobbying group. 

Investigators say Chatfield paid the $775 rent through the Peninsula Fund nonprofit but between December 2017 and December 2019 was subletting a room to another person who paid him $250 per month. 

Chatfield did not reimburse the Peninsula Fund, so effectively “embezzled $6,225” from the social welfare nonprofit, prosecutors allege.

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