Jackson County prosecutors say two mid-Michigan police officers covered up the cause of a car accident, committing insurance fraud.
"They reported a car-deer accident," Waterloo Police Chief Tom Cottrell said. "And that is not what happened."
There was an accident, he says.
Prosecutors say Andrew Hinkle, a Stockbridge police officer, was leaving a party in Jackson County last October when he hit a car. Apparently not wanting to report the accident as it happened, he called a friend who was an officer in nearby Waterloo Township, where Cottrell is the chief of police.
"The Stockbridge officer made a personal phone call to my officer to arrange to get the process started," he said.
That process involved Waterloo officer Matthew LaFrance filing a false police report, investigators say, to get Hinkle's insurance company to fix the damage from the accident.
"A fraudulent insurance claim was submitted and paid," Cottrell said.
LaFrance is also charged with neglect as a public officer. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment. A lawyer for Hinkle said he is still reviewing the police reports in the case.
Those reports indicate the accident involving Hinkle's personal car probably happened in Henrietta Township, Cottrell says.
When he began investigating, he says he discovered the damage to Hinkle's car was not consistent with a car-deer collision.
Mike King is the chief of police in Stockbridge, where Hinkle worked. He says someone came and told him one of his officers was involved in an accident that wasn't handled properly. That's when he alerted the Waterloo chief, where the allegedly false report was filed.
"It's an unfortunate thing because they were both good officers, both did good police work," Cottrell said. "They just made some very bad decisions."
Decisions that could land them up to four years in prison.