By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
The case dealing with a Boyne Falls couple originally charged with racketeering in an alleged water scandal in the Walloon Lake area has taken yet another turn.
The wife in question, Kathleen L. Hass, has had charges against her dismissed following a preliminary examination while her husband Dennis Lee Hass, 53, has been charged with three counts of extortion and two counts of encumbering real property without lawful cause.
Court documents allege Dennis to have transgressed against at least five victims by using his private water system to extort money from them and/or harass and intimidate customers by filing liens against their property.
“Defendant’s did commit the following offense for financial gain, to wit: did maliciously threaten to injure the person or property of (victim 1) with intent to thereby extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatever or to compel the person so threatened to do or refrain from doing an act against his will,” police documents state. “And, on or about Jan. 1, 2000 through June 6, 2012, in Walloon Lake and Melrose Township … defendants did commit the following offense for financial gain, to wit: did maliciously threaten to injure the person or property of (victim 2) to thereby extort money … or compel the person so threatened to do or refrain from doing an act against his will.”
In all at least 10 people were originally named as alleged victims of Hass.
According to the Charlevoix County Sheriff Office’s affidavit of probable cause, though rare, this type of private water utility service is allowed since the State of Michigan deregulated water utilities in 1996.
The deregulation allows for rules, regulations, rates and fees to be imposed by the water provider at its sole discretion.
Some of the alleged illegal acts include a claim that some customers were forced to pay water bills which had been accrued by people who had owned property previous to the new owners.
At the time of Dennis’ original charges, his Walloon Lake Water System served nearly 240 customers with water utilities in Charlevoix County.
Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney officials dropped the charges earlier this spring in order to allow for an appraisal of The charges were also dropped due to a negotiation on a plea deal which failed.
The alleged scheme involved customers being allegedly overcharged for water and forced to pay for water in advance of its use.
If found guilty of extortion, Dennis L. Hass could face a felony charge and up to 20 years in prison or a fine of $10,000.
If found guilty of encumbering real property without a lawful cause, Dennis could face a felony charge and three years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines.