County treasurer investigated for property theft

Sheila Gowell.

HART, Mich. (WOOD) — The Oceana County treasurer is at the center of a criminal investigation involving property seized by the county.

Police say they suspect Sheila Gowell was involved in stealing property from a home that had been seized by her office.

The still-open case involves a Lake Michigan beachfront home in the 3600 block of Lakeview Drive. The owner stopped paying his taxes and left the area, abandoning all his belongings in his house, officials said.

The investigation into Gowell began after a complaint was filed by someone who was looking after the house for the homeowner. He noticed some things were missing — furniture and other items — so he called police, the friend who asked not to be identified told 24 Hour News 8.

Police say they suspect Gowell took some property from inside the residence. Police would not specify what she is alleged to have stolen or how valuable that property is.

The case is being complicated by the fact that authorities can’t find the owner of the home, Dr. Hans Friedl — a physician from Germany.

Friedl is known to have lived in Germany and Canada. A Canadian news service reports on warrants issued against a doctor named Hans Friedl for failing to take care of financial responsibilities. The friend who was watching the house said he doesn’t know where Friedl is, either.

Because of a potential conflict of interest, the Oceana County Prosecutor’s Office is not handling the case. Instead, it has been sent to a special prosecutor. The Mason County prosecutor will determine whether Gowell will face charges.

In the meantime, she remains on the job.

When 24 Hour News 8 called Gowell Tuesday, she at first acted clueless about the case and then started whispering into the phone, saying she couldn’t talk and she would call back. She never did.

Gowell was not at her office Wednesday. She was at her house but did not come to the door. Her husband, who answered the door, said they did not have any comment. He said he knows nothing of the allegations and denied she stole anything.

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