Former Country Club Hills Police Chief Pleads Guilty To $1.25 Million Fraud Scheme
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Former Country Club Hills, Ill., police chief Regina R. Evans, 50, today pled guilty to charges 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 that Evans owned with her husband, Ronald W. Evans, Jr.
A status hearing in the case against Ronald Evans, 46, former inspector general of the Country Club Hills police department, is scheduled tomorrow morning, in federal court in Springfield. Trial for Ronald Evans is currently scheduled to begin on Jul. 9, 2013.
Regina Evans appeared this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough and entered an open plea of guilty to the following charges: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering (one count); wire fraud (three counts); and money laundering (seven counts.) There is no plea agreement between the government and Evans. Sentencing in this matter has been scheduled on Oct. 15, 2013.
In court documents and during today’s hearing, Regina Evans admitted that she and her husband 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. 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. In fact, Regina Evans admitted that little, if any, of the training proposed in the grant agreement, was ever completed.
Instead, Evans admitted that she concealed her true financial status and that of her various business interests from DCEO and her intent to use a substantial portion of the grant funds shortly after their disbursement for repayment of indebtedness, including delinquent mortgage indebtedness for the Regal Theater. Within six months of the grant disbursement, Evans admitted that the $1.25 million was deposited into six separate accounts at the same financial institution, including $500,000 or more which was converted to the personal use and benefit of Evans and businesses she owned, including The Prime Time Group, Inc. and The Regal Theater, LLC, and to the use and benefit of Evans’s family members, friends and associates.
In a separate but related case, trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 3, 2013 for Regina Evans and her brother, Ricky McCoy. Evans and McCoy, 52, of Chicago, are charged 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.
Following a hearing this morning, trial has been scheduled for Sept. 10, 2013, for Jeri L. Wright, 47, of Hazel Crest, Ill., charged 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.
Wright allegedly received three checks in November 2009, totaling approximately $28,000, purporting to be for work related to the grant; 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.
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.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of the various offenses charged is as follows: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering – up to five years in prison; 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 in the obstruction case against her, 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.
On Mar. 29, 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore ordered that Evans be detained pending trial and her bond was revoked. Following today’s hearing, Evans was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants whose cases remain pending are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.