2018-07-12 / Courts

Cleveland woman known for centennial barn faces felonies

A 62-year-old Cleveland Township woman known for her ownership of what’s been termed the “Centennial Barn” was arraigned in District Court Tuesday on two charges of welfare fraud.

Susan M. Shields of 1042 W. Harbor Hwy., was named in a felony complaint that resulted from an Michigan Office of Inspector General investigation dating back to January 2014.

According to a probable cause statement, between Jan. 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, Shields obtained “assistance or relief to which she was not entitled.”

Shields’ name was listed on a mortgage foreclosure notice published in the March 22 Leelanau Enterprise for land in Cleveland Township. The notice sought payment of $395,989.

Stories about Shields have appeared in past Enterprises, including coverage of an effort in 2016 to rezone historic Bass Lake Cottages off M-22 from agricultural to commercial resort. The Cleveland Township Board denied her request, which was opposed by the National Park Service.

Her name first emerged in the public light in 2005 just prior to the Fourth of July when a request went out for volunteers to help her give the Centennial Barn a facelift. The old “Shalda” barn had been painted with a patriotic theme leading up to the 1976 Fourth celebration; the paint job had faded.

Shields is accused of “falsely reporting” that she had no income, was not self-employed and she had only one bank account, according to the felony complaint.

The state investigation determined that Shields owned multiple businesses in her name as well as related “doing business as” identifications.

In addition, Shields had 16 bank accounts in her name with corresponding signature cards, the report states.

She is alleged to have received $3,545 more than she should have over the 26-month period.

Welfare fraud is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and $500 fine. The second charge, welfare fraud (failure to inform), has the same sentence.

Shields remains free on bond pending a July 31 preliminary hearing.

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