Former Jackson city employee jailed for embezzlement

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — A former city of Jackson employee is now behind bars for stealing more than $28,000 from taxpayers.

6 News was there Friday morning as Sheila Prater found herself in Jackson County Court in front of a judge, two years after she first stole money from Jackson City Hall.

The 41-year-old was an official in the city’s Neighborhood and Economic Operations.

Last year, Prater left the city for another job.

It wasn’t until March of this year that the city discovered that almost $29,000 was missing.

The law says an embezzlement of more than $28,000 is a 10 year felony.

But in May, our media partners at the Jackson Citizen Patriot uncovered the accusations of embezzlement and revealed that Prater was only charged with a misdemeanor.

After the Jackson Police Department started an investigation, Prater’s step-father paid the city back the $28,884 that she stole.

The prosecutor’s office says that’s one reason for the lesser charge in making charging decisions as well as conversations with the city manager and city attorney.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelsey McKinnie says she spoke with both of them.

“About not wanting a felony, but then not wanting us to treat her any differently. And not wanting her to go to jail, but not wanting us to treat her any differently,” McKinnie said.

Judge Joseph Filip questioned that explanation.

“Something is going on here that doesn’t smell right,” Judge Filip said.

Judge Filip went said those officials are not the victim in this matter, it’s the taxpayers who are represented by the city council.

The judge revealed minutes from a closed door meeting that had several city council members asking that Prater get a felony and jail time.

Prater held back tears during the sentencing, saying she stole in the grips of a gambling addiction and is now getting help.

“Not only did I let myself down, I let my friends, my family, my coworkers, I let the community down. And I broke everybody’s trust. I am trying to move forward by addressing my addiction. I’ve taken full responsibility for what I’ve done,” Prater said in court.

The judge disregarded the prosecution’s recommendation of no jail time, sentencing prater to 29 days in jail and 29 days in community corrections.

If she violates her one year of probation, she’ll have to go back for 10 months.

6 News reached out to the city of Jackson for comment.

They sent a statement that said “We accept the judge’s sentencing today and have no further comment at this time.”

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