In March 2010, TV stations in Flint, Mich. broadcast footage of Richard A. Short on stage with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, celebrating a $9.1 million “green jobs” subsidy deal from the state for Short’s Renewable and Sustainable Companies, LLC (RASCO).

One TV news viewer found this puzzling, mostly because he was Short’s parole officer.

It turned out that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) had missed the fact that the CEO of the company they were subsidizing was currently on parole for embezzlement, still owed $96,000 in court-ordered restitution and had been convicted previously on other fraud charges in Michigan. Eventually, it would come out that the MEDC had also failed to discover that Short had submitted fraudulent paperwork to bolster his subsidy application, including a letter claiming he had access to a phantom $10 million trust fund.

Within 24 hours, Short was arrested for parole violations – you’re supposed to tell your parole officer if you’re working, much less that you’re the CEO of a company that’s supposedly doing business in Africa and getting millions of dollars in public subsidies, which Short had not done.

Short’s post-press conference booking photo

A subsequent investigation led to further charges that while he was RASCO’s CEO and going through the MEDC’s grant approval process, Short had scammed an elderly neighbor out of thousands of dollars by tricking her into giving him power of attorney. He would eventually plead no contest to those charges, then be sentenced to up to eight years in prison for attempted fraud in the RASCO deal.

An MEDC statement said that it would start requiring that companies applying for credits disclose any prior felony convictions by senior executives, which was surprising mostly for the fact that they didn’t already do so. A spokesperson for Gov. Granholm — who is now U.S. Secretary of Energy in the Biden Administration — said that “the MEDC has been directed to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Michigan’s taxpayers could be forgiven for wondering why they’d let it happen even once — and how long it would have continued if not for a parole officer deciding to watch the local news that evening.

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