BAY CITY — Former Oakley Police Chief Robert Reznick, who is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. Thursday in Michigan’s Eastern District of Federal Court in Bay City on multiple felony counts, has received numerous letters of support asking that he receive a lenient sentence.
Reznick pleaded guilty in March to felony charges of wire fraud and filing a false income tax return. He is currently free on a $10,000 bond.
Reznick was originally scheduled to be sentenced in federal court June 27, but sentencing was delayed because Reznick was suffering from a kidney stone and was confined to his bed, his lawyer said at the time.
Mark Kriger, attorney for Reznick, is asking that his client be placed on probation or house arrest. Federal prosecutors, however, are requesting a minimum sentence of one year in prison, and that Reznick be ordered to pay restitution.
Court filings show dozens of people wrote letters on Reznick’s behalf, including more than 30 government officials, police officers and lawyers.
Among those supporting the former Oakley chief are Iosco County Prosecutor Gary Rapp, former New Lothrop Police Chief Peter Krupp, former Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ryan and retired Midland County Sheriff Jerry Nielsen.
Local officials supporting the admitted felon include Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole, who penned a letter to Judge Thomas Ludington, who will determine sentencing in Reznick’s case.
In his letter, BeGole outlines his 15-year friendship with Reznick, which started when Reznick was a patrolman for the village of Morrice.
“When (Reznick) first started there and I told him he was going to have to deal with a lot of small-town politics and that I didn’t think it was worth the hassle,” BeGole wrote. “Rob stuck it out for years because he felt he and the officers were doing a lot of good things for the community.”
James Frelitz, a former Oakley Village Council member who served in that capacity more than 20 years, and later as a wastewater operator, wrote a letter to Ludington saying he first met Reznick the day he interviewed for the chief of police position in Oakley.
“As I began to know Rob, I was impressed with his integrity and dedication to the position,” Frelitz wrote. “Rob was an inspiration while on duty, always portraying professionalism.”
Richard Hamilton, an attorney who represented Oakley while Reznick was chief, said he was neighbors with Reznick’s parents while Hamilton was growing up, and Hamilton’s son went to school with Reznick.
“Robert has a wide network of loyal friends that he has accumulated over the years, from all walks of life,” Hamilton wrote. “He is extremely loyal to his friends as they are to him. His friendships have enabled him to generate significant donations to the small police departments where he has served as police chief.”
Reznick also received support from several other former Oakley officials, including the former village clerk, the current village president and a Department of Public Works employee.
Cheryl Bolf, Oakley clerk from 2010-16, wrote that she was impressed with Reznick’s “manner and character,” and willingness to help children behaving badly in town.
“There are many instances and kind gestures that will be left unmentioned, but in my heart I will always remember what Chief Reznick did for our very small but grateful village,” she wrote. “I am proud to have worked with him serving the village of Oakley.”
Richard Fish, the current Oakley president, wrote that the village couldn’t have been successful without Reznick’s help.
“I believe he changed a few people to turn themselves around and contribute back to the community,” Fish wrote. “He came in at the right time and gave us his energy and time to make a real impact on our community.”
Steven Bolf, an Oakley DPW employee, said Reznick always made an effort to help poor people in Oakley, and was a large part of the village’s growth.
“He hired only the most qualified and dedicated police force,” Steven Bolf wrote. “Each officer I met was of the highest quality; they had strong backgrounds as police officers.”
Former Oakley council member and President Pro-tem Susan Dingo said in a letter that Reznick spent a lot of time helping out and volunteering in the community. She asked Ludington to “not judge Rob by (these charges) alone. He has done so much for the community.”
Not everyone supportive
Dennis and Shannon Bitterman, however, take issue with Reznick receiving letters of support from current and former Oakley officials. The couple had numerous legal battles with the village.
“These people who are still supporting Reznick after everything and are still on the council,” Shannon Bitterman said, “they’re supporting a felon and I find that ridiculous.”
The Bittermans filed numerous lawsuits against Reznick and the Oakley Village Council, alleging retaliation and harassment by Reznick and other elected officials in Oakley, and were ultimately awarded $100,000 in 2017 by the village’s insurance company as a result of those lawsuits.
Dennis and Shannon Bitterman filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in 2013 that sought names of the village’s reserve police force. The names of officers were eventually released, and that led to the beginning of the investigation into Reznick and his actions while chief.
“We were shunned for bringing this into the open,” Shannon Bitterman said. “(Public servants) should be held to a higher standard. Reznick told us he was going to run us out of this town. When we first started the legal stuff with the village, the council president told us we were opening a can of worms. Well, the can we opened was deeper and wider than anyone knew.”
Reznick pleaded guilty in March to felony wire fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Morris in Bay City in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In addition to the wire fraud charge, Reznick pleaded guilty to willfully filing a false 2012 federal income tax return, and acknowledged under-reporting his income on tax returns for additional years.
The criminal tax loss that resulted from Reznick failing to report all of his personal income totaled approximately $87,702.
“Former Police Chief Reznick’s guilty plea demonstrates that no one is above the law in Michigan — and that includes those who enforce the law,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a press release at the time. “The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that those entrusted with enforcing the law follow it themselves, and when they do not, we will hold them fully accountable.”
Wire fraud carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence. Filing a false tax return carries a three-year prison term, restitution, a $250,000 fine and forfeiture of property.
Court documents, however, indicate the parties agreed to a sentencing range of 12 to 18 months on the tax charge. He also will be subject to five years of supervised release and will not be fined.
The agreement also states he will pay $124,0878 in restitution, $4,553 in court costs, and give up all firearms, ammunition and explosives previously seized.
According to court records, Reznick fraudulently used his position as a police chief to obtain reduced prices on firearms, ammunition and other equipment from suppliers located both in and outside of Michigan. He then sold the merchandise to reserve officers for his personal profit.
Court documents say Reznick received more than $10,000 per year in “criminally derived income” and, in total, obtained more than $40,000 and less than $95,000 via fraud.
The file also shows he did not file income taxes from 2010 to 2013. He also failed to file Due Process of Michigan forms for 2012-14.
Once an investigation began in 2015, documents say, he belatedly filed fraudulent returns.
Though the population of Oakley, located in Saginaw County, is under 300 people, Reznick recruited and maintained a roster of approximately 120 reserve officers for the Oakley Police Department, most of whom were affluent professionals or otherwise prominent individuals who lived outside of, and distant from, the village, the press release from the U.S. attorney notes.
Reznick also used his position as police chief to facilitate the sale of assault shotguns, with the capacity to hold 16 rounds, from an out-of-state vendor for some of his customers and thereby enabled the purchasers of those shotguns to evade the federal and state taxes on the transactions.
Federal agents raided Reznick’s home in October 2017 and Oakley trustees voted not to renew contracts for their part-time, six-person police department.
During the 2017 raid of Reznick’s home and another property ATF agents seized 28 items from the home, 5184 Oakhill Drive near Swartz Creek.
The items included “three bank bags of currency” from a safe, “miscellaneous documents including police/reserve memberships” from a cardboard box in a garage, an Apple iPhone, three hard drives and two laptop computers.
The items also include the following weaponry: A Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, three Remington pump-action, 12-gauge shotguns, a Beretta 12-gauge shotgun, a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun, a Mossberg .22-caliber handgun, a Skorpion pistol, and a Springfield Armory Socom 16 semi-automatic rifle.
At a second property associated with Reznick, a garage at 12164 Miller Road near Lennon, ATF agents seized two cases of 3-inch aerial display shells, a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun and a box used to hold a .40-caliber pistol.