Local men sentenced to prison on forgery, meth charges

Published 2:32 pm Monday, August 15, 2022

NILES – Two area residents were sentenced to prison Monday in Berrien County Trial Court in Niles. 

Michael Allen House, 29, of Buchanan, pleaded guilty to uttering and publishing as well as forgery and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms. He was sentenced to 18 months to 14 years in prison for the uttering and publishing charge and 12 months to 14 years in prison for forgery. 

House has credit for 57 days already served and must pay $396 in fines and costs. He is ordered to pay $19,164 in restitution in the uttering and publishing case and $6,000 in restitution in the forgery case. 

The uttering and publishing incident occurred Nov. 1, 2020 and the forgery incident occurred Jan. 21, 2022, both in Buchanan. He took money from his grandfather as well as another person. 

Defense attorney Erika Damstetter asked for a lower prison term given the amount of restitution House owes. “There is a large amount of restitution to pay back,” she said. “He is an engineer, very intelligent and able to work. The sooner he gets out, the sooner he can start paying it back.” 

She noted that House has a meth drug addiction and has been able to get sober while he’s been in jail. “He’s now sober and has a clear head,” she said. “Hopefully he can continue his sobriety.” 

House said he has re-evaluated his life. “Obviously drugs have done nothing for me,” he said. “I apologize to my grandfather. He’s my superhero and means everything to me and I took advantage of him. I’m sorry.” 

Clifford Edward Kunze, 35, of Niles, pleaded guilty to first offense delivery/manufacture of methamphetamines and was sentenced to five years to 20 years in prison. He has credit for 144 days served and must pay $198 in fines and costs. 

The incident occurred Nov. 10, 2021 in Oronoko Township. 

Defense attorney Carri Briseno said Kunze was making poor decisions before he was arrested. “He was selling meth to support his addiction,” she said. “He wants to have stability and learn healthy ways to respond to stressors in his life. He’s at ground zero right now.” 

“It was never a wise decision for me to do this,” Kunze said. “From here on out, I’m going to try to do the right thing.” 

“It’s all about the choices that you make,” Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock said. “It’s unfortunate, you have skills as an auto mechanic. You need to self reflect and self evaluate where you plan to go to get beyond this.”