TRAVERSE CITY — A tree-service business owner found a growing list of payment issues and thousands of dollars in equipment missing when he returned from a winter in Florida, authorities said.
The owner of Dave’s Tree Service heads south when business slows in the winter. He left Dennis Paul Stacey, 29, to prepare the business for the 2018 season. But he found issues with March job payments and missing equipment when he returned, according to court records.
Grand Traverse County sheriff's department investigators suspect Stacey, from Traverse City, instructed customers to pay him or write checks in his name, rather than the business’. Authorities also accused him of using chainsaws and other equipment — with an estimated value exceeding $1,000, but less than $20,000 — without permission, court records indicate. He returned "multiple tools" to the owner through a third party, according to court records.
Court files additionally show Stacey took a business-owned pickup truck without consent.
He challenged the charges.
“This did not happen,” Stacey said.
He directed further questions to his attorney Philip Settles, who did not immediately return calls requesting comment.
The investigation led prosecutors to file several charges against Stacey, including embezzlement, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of personal property. He additionally will be charged as a second-offense habitual offender, which could enhance a possible sentence, according to court records. Eighty-sixth District Court officials arraigned him on the charges Sept. 19.
Stacey appeared for a probable cause hearing in district court Wednesday, according to court records. It appears he is next scheduled for a preliminary hearing Oct. 22.