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Published: Tuesday, 4/24/2001

Township trustee guilty in fraud case

ADRIAN - George Fanning, chairman of the Sylvania Township trustees, pleaded guilty yesterday to a misdemeanor fraud charge for taking a $1,250 antique item from a Michigan antique mall.

Blissfield police Officer Robert Trevino arrested Mr. Fanning, 65, of 4725 North Crestridge Rd., April 3 after the theft from Adrian's Blissfield Antique Mall.

Originally charged with a felony, Mr. Fanning pleaded guilty to second-degree retail fraud in Lenawee County District Court in a plea bargain, officials said. The crime is punishable by a maximum of a year in jail.

Mr. Fanning remains free on bond until his June 4 sentencing. He would not comment, and his attorney, Dale Smith, could not be reached for comment.

“He was at the store that sells antiques,” assistant Lenawee County prosecutor Doug Hartung said. “The storekeeper saw him steal the item.”

Police found the item in Mr. Fanning's truck, officials said.

The blue and white item, which looks like a train, is seven inches long and has Greyhound Lines Bus written on it. Authorities allowed the plea because Mr. Fanning, who began his term in 1998, does not have a previous record, and the storekeeper was agreeable, Mr. Hartung said.

Trustees Dick Moses and Dock Treece spoke with Mr. Fanning yesterday. “I'm not sure what it means for the township,” Mr. Moses said. “I feel very bad that something like this has happened. ... I think George will do whatever is best for the community and the township.”

Mr. Treece does not know whether Mr. Fanning should step down, but he said he will not request his resignation.

“I'm astounded,” Mr. Treece said yesterday. “I always found him to be a good, upstanding, do-the-right-thing-type of guy..”

If Mr. Fanning resigns, Mr. Treece and Mr. Moses would pick a replacement.

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