Grand Jury Indictments Broaden Alleged Fraud Charges Related to $1.25 Million Grant
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Three indictments returned today by the grand jury in Springfield, Ill., collectively broaden allegations of fraud related to a $1.25 million state grant awarded in 2009 to We Are Our Brother’s Keeper, a not-for-profit program owned by Regina R. Evans, former police chief for Country Club Hills, Ill., and her husband, Ronald W. Evans, Jr., also formerly employed with the Country Club Hills Police Department. The grant agreement provided for an estimated 40 participants to receive bricklaying and electrical pre-apprenticeship training and GED preparation, at the Regal Theater, another entity owned by the Evanses.
Regina, 50, and her husband, Ronald Evans, 45, are charged in a third superseding indictment with fraudulent use of grant funds, specifically wire fraud (three counts), money laundering (seven counts each), and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering (one count). According to the indictment, at the time of the alleged fraud, from February 2009 to June 2010, Regina and Ronald Evans owned various for-profit and not-for-profit entities, including the Prime Time Group, Inc., the Regal Theater, LLC., and We Are Our Brother’s Keeper (WAOBK.) In February 2009, on behalf of WAOBK, Evans and her husband applied for grant funding offered under the Employment Opportunities Grant Program and administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO.) In September 2009, DCEO disbursed the $1,250,000 award for the two-year period, beginning on June 1, 2009, and ending on May 31, 2011. In fact, the indictment alleges that little, if any, of the training provided in the grant agreement, was ever completed.
Following the return of a prior superseding indictment against the Evanses, in June 2012, the grand jury investigation continued relating to unindicted offenses and persons, including potential money laundering offenses. The investigation included a review of more than $100,000 in checks issued by the Evanses and Ricky McCoy, Regina Evans’ brother, involving grant funds and made payable to various associates of the Evanses, including McCoy and Jeri L. Wright, purportedly for work done by associates under the grant program. The indictment alleges that more than $60,000 from the proceeds of the checks was deposited back into accounts which the Evanses controlled.
Another indictment returned today charges Jeri L. Wright, 47, of Hazel Crest, Ill., with money laundering (two counts), making false statements to federal law enforcement officers (two counts), and giving false testimony before a grand jury (seven counts), related to the investigation of the alleged fraudulent use of grant funds.
According to the indictment, Wright, a close friend and associate of the Evanses, allegedly received three checks in November 2009, totaling approximately $28,000, purporting to be for work related to the grant, and approximately $20,000 of the proceeds of the checks was allegedly deposited back into accounts controlled by the Evanses. The indictment further alleges that Wright made false statements to federal law enforcement officers when she was interviewed on various occasions in 2012, and that on Nov. 7, 2012, Wright made materially false statements to the grand jury.
A third, related indictment returned today charges Regina Evans, and her brother, Ricky McCoy, 52, of Chicago, with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice and witness tampering, related to the ongoing investigation of the alleged fraudulent use of grant funds. In addition, McCoy is charged with three counts of money laundering. According to the indictment, McCoy served as the executive director of We Are Our Brother’s Keeper. The indictment alleges that on Nov. 12, 2009, a check in the amount of $16,249 was issued to McCoy, cashed, and the check’s proceeds deposited into a bank account controlled by the Evanses. Regina Evans and McCoy were previously charged by complaint with the charges related to obstruction and witness tampering. As a result of the additional charges filed in the criminal complaint, on Mar. 29, 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore ordered that Evans be detained pending trial and her bond was revoked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass is prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois. The ongoing investigation is being conducted by participating agencies of the Central District of Illinois’ U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Public Corruption Task Force including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Chicago Division; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations; and, the Illinois Secretary of State Office of Inspector General. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development is also cooperating in the investigation. Individuals who wish to provide information to law enforcement regarding matters of public corruption are urged to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 217-492-4450.
If convicted, the maximum statutory penalty for each count of the various offenses charged is as follows: wire fraud - up to 20 years in prison; money laundering - up to 20 years in prison; obstruction of justice – up to 10 years in prison; witness tampering – up to 20 years in prison; conspiracy to obstruct justice and witness tampering – up to five years in prison; making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer – up to five years in prison; providing false testimony before a grand jury – up to five years in prison. If convicted, Regina Evans faces additional penalties of up to 10 years in prison to be served consecutive to any sentence ordered for the underlying offenses because the offenses were allegedly committed while the defendant was on pre-trial release.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
James A. Lewis
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