Former commissioner charged with embezzlement

A mug shot of Terry Burns

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Allegan County commissioner is facing embezzlement charges after he allegedly stole thousands of dollars from his friend’s bank account.

Terry Burns was formally charged Wednesday with embezzlement of between $20,000 and $50,000 or more from a vulnerable adult.

He could face up to 10 years in prison for allegedly taking money from his friend Joe Migas after he petitioned to become Migas’s guardian.

The initial petition in September 2012 said that Migas stated his “long friend” Burns would be a “good guardian and special conservator.” Burns wrote in the petition to become guardian that his friend Migas needed his help because the older man had severe dementia, a heart condition and Parkinson’s disease.

In March 2013, Burns sold property Migas owned to pay off some of the man’s debts.  He deposited more than $167,000 into Migas’s account — of which he was the conservator — in July of that year.

Several weeks after the deposit, Migas’s girlfriend and caretaker contacted Migas’ bank, saying that money had been “improperly removed, diverted or stolen” from the account.

The bank began an investigation that revealed “unusual activity” in the account, which included $80,000 being removed by Burns within a 90-day period. It contacted the court in November 2013.

The bank stated more than $18,000 had been withdrawn from Migas’s account through checks written out to cash. The documents also allege Burns took out thousands of dollars at a time from Migas’s account and put it directly into his own.

A copy of one check Terry Burns allegedly used to embezzle from his friend, as seen in court documents. (Feb. 27, 2014)
(A copy of one check Terry Burns allegedly used to embezzle from his friend, as seen in court documents. – Feb. 27, 2014)

Burns said in court documents that some of that money went to home improvements for the residence where Migas lived.

When Burns was asked about the money, the documents say, he told the court that Migas agreed to loan him $30,000 for his run for state representative — a race he dropped out of.

Burns posted on his Facebook page in November that he “borrowed a significant amount of money from the guardianship account which was under my control!” He went on to apologize for his actions and stated all the money had been paid back to Migas.

24 Hour News 8 saw Burns agreed to pay $16,000, but did not see any payment beyond that in probate court documents.

Burns told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone he was shocked by the criminal charges against him.

“I don’t know what they’re doing, but that other than that I have no comment,” Burns said. “We’ll figure that out in court.”

He said he is not guilty.  He also stated that he couldn’t say more about the issue and directed 24 Hour News 8 to speak to his attorney. He left jail on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

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