Retail Fraud Diversion Program

Most people us the term “shoplifting.” Michigan law calls it “retail fraud.” Retail fraud includes stealing merchandise from a store when it is open for business, switching price tags, and returning stolen merchandise. In instances of theft, the defendant does not have to leave the store itself or the store’s property: passing all points of purchase without attempting to pay may be sufficient to prove the required intent to steal. The program is used for both adult and juvenile wrongdoers.

How the Retail Fraud Diversion Program Works

An Eaton County business that is the victim of a retail fraud files a formal complaint with the local law enforcement or, in some cases, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The Economic Crimes Unit (ECU) uses the following guidelines to determine eligibility of participants:

  • The case must involve theft of less than $200 (Retail Fraud 3rd Degree).
  • The participant did not fight, struggle or resist police or store employees.
  • The participant must not have any prior criminal convictions.
  • The participant must not have participated in a diversion program before.

A prosecutor will review the case and if the wrongdoer qualifies, then the ECU will send a formal letter to him/her detailing the steps required to resolve the matter. If the wrongdoer completes the necessary steps, the Prosecutor’s office will not issue formal charges.

Steps Necessary to Complete the Retail Fraud Diversion Program

  1. After receiving the formal letter, the participant must call the ECU by the contact date listed. The ECU will explain the diversion program and email forms to the participant to fill out and return.
  2. Submit an apology letter to the ECU for the merchant.
  3. Pay a diversion fee to Eaton County and pay the applicable civil demand fee. A business can charge a civil demand fee up to 10 times the amount of the value of the item(s) stolen, with a minimum charge of $50 to a maximum charge of $200. The participant would also have to pay any restitution to the merchant for items that weren’t recovered or damaged.
  4. Schedule a meeting to discuss the case with an ECU staff member. Meetings can be held online or in-person.
  5. Take an online Shoplifting class. The ECU will email a link and brochure from a third-party vendor. There is an additional fee for the class, which is payable online. A score of 60 or more is required to pass the test at the end of the class.

If all of the steps are not completed, the participant has failed diversion and will be formally prosecuted.