Convicted embezzler pleads no contest to fraud

FLINT (AP) -- An embezzler who was on parole when he briefly obtained a $9.1 million state tax credit pleaded no contest to attempted fraud on Monday, prosecutors said. Richard A. Short also pleaded no contest to unlawfully using a financial transaction device for using the ATM card of an elderly neighbor who suffered from dementia, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said. Short's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30. Short was arrested a day after sharing the stage with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm in March 2010 as she announced his company, RASCO, would get the tax credits. He got the grant after saying the company planned to improve the lives of poor people overseas by using renewable energy to provide electricity, clean drinking water, sanitation and telephone and Internet service. Short's ability to get a business tax credit for a company he apparently created on his trailer park home computer deeply embarrassed the state's economic development officials. Before his arrest, Short had a lengthy criminal history. His prison record and the fact that he was on parole could easily be found by searching the state's offender database online. Officials at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. said they never conducted a background check on Short. They also failed to check his other paperwork, including an apparently fake letter Leyton said Short wrote claiming he had $10 million in a trust fund to finance RASCO's operations. After Short's arrest, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority began doing background checks on applicants for state tax breaks. Granholm also ordered a shakeup of the Economic Growth Authority board. Gov. Rick Snyder, who took office Jan. 1, has tried to vastly decrease the number of state tax credits going to individual companies. Short was convicted in 2002 of embezzling money from Harding Energy Inc. of Muskegon County's Norton Shores and sentenced to at least two years in prison. He also pleaded guilty in 2002 to earlier fraud charges in Oakland and Genesee counties, according to Corrections Department and state police records. He was paroled in April 2004 but was returned to prison the following February for violating his parole with additional fraudulent activities, then paroled in January 2007. Published: Wed, Jul 20, 2011