Sentencing delayed in vulnerable adult embezzlement case 

November 14, 2023

Jessica Engelbrecht

Sentencing delayed in vulnerable adult embezzlement case 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

LUDINGTON – After hearing over an hour of attorneys’ arguments about scoring offense variables during a sentencing hearing for a 36-year-old Scottville woman convicted of embezzling from vulnerable adults, Judge Susan K. Sniegowski postponed the hearing in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Jessica Michelle Englebrecht was found guilty by a jury, Sept. 14, of all 11 charged counts for abusing her authority as a guardian and embezzling from 10 vulnerable adults and commingling their funds.  

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Daniel Gunderson with the Financial Crimes Division, who is prosecuting the case, and defense attorney Tracie Dinehart, who is representing Englebrecht, argued over the scoring of several offense variables in the case that establish sentencing guidelines. 

“Due to a significant number of challenges, I will need a memorandum of law,” said Judge Sniegowski. The attorneys will have 21 days to complete their memos, and then the judge will provide a written opinion on scoring guidelines. A new sentencing date will be set when the memos and opinion are completed.

Defense attorney Tracie Dinehart (standing) addresses the court. Seated next her is Dinehart’s client, Jessica Englebrecht. Seated at the prosecution table are Michigan Assistant Attorney General Daniel Gunderson and Probation/Parole Field Supervisor Matt Chitwood for Mason, Oceana and Newaygo counties.

A jury convicted Englebrecht of eight counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a five-year felony; one count of vulnerable adults – caregiver commingling funds/obstructing investigations, a two-year high court misdemeanor; one count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – $200 or more but less than $1,000, a one-year misdemeanor; and one count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – less than $200, a 93-day misdemeanor. 

Michigan State Police began investigating Englebrecht in 2019 in conjunction with Adult Protective Services, said Attorney General Nessel. Englebrecht stood trial for embezzling more than $20,000 from 10 vulnerable adults. She was appointed as a guardian and/or conservator for the adults from 2017-2019.  

“Those the state trusts in court-appointed positions of power as guardians and conservators must be held to the highest standards and must be held accountable when they use their position criminally,” said Nessel in a press release. “I applaud the jury and prosecutors for securing justice in this case, and the investigators at Michigan State Police and Adult Protective Services for their commitment to uncovering this abuse. Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task Force has many recommendations to protect those under guardianship, including the certification of appointed guardians, and I remain committed to pursuing that measure.” 

Attorney General Nessel has made elder abuse a top priority for her administration, assisting in the creation of the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force. The task force has outlined several recommendations to improve protections for Michigan’s elderly populations, including proposing a certification requirement for those serving as guardians. Currently, no qualification or training is necessary to be a guardian, just a judge’s appointment. 

Englebrecht rejected a plea deal, Aug. 18, that would have included no jail time. Assistant Attorney General Gunderson offered a plea agreement in which Englebrecht could have pleaded “no contest” to one felony count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult and a misdemeanor of commingling funds from a vulnerable adult. The other nine charges would have been dismissed. In light of her rejecting the plea deal and the jury’s verdict, she now faces incarceration.

Englebrecht told the Traverse City Record Eagle in a May 22, 2022 article that she was being unfairly targeted by the AG’s office. 

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