Former Illinois State Representative Connie Howard Pleads Guilty To Fraud Scheme
Springfield, Ill. – Former Illinois State Representative Constance ‘Connie’ Howard, today waived indictment and entered a plea of guilty to mail fraud related to her misuse of funds from 2003 to 2007, that she raised on behalf of a charity golf outing she sponsored, as announced by U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois. Howard, 70, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 21, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Richard Mills.
In court documents and during today’s hearing, Howard admitted that, as a result of the scheme, from 2003 to 2007, she solicited and obtained approximately $76,700, representing that such funds would be used to provide scholarships. Howard admitted that, in fact, no more than five scholarships of $2,500 each, totaling $12,500, were issued during the course of the scheme, and as much as approximately $28,000 of the funds raised were converted to her personal and political use. Misuse of the funds included expenses associated with the promotion of her campaign, and campaign events, and to the benefit of Individual A, identified in court documents as Howard’s legislative aide and employee / office manager.
At the time of the fraud, Howard was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. She served as Chairwoman of the Computer Technology Committee for the House of Representatives and the Eliminate the Digital Divide Advisory Committee of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Howard’s legislative and campaign offices were located in Chicago.
In 2003, Howard created an organization known as “Tee Off for Technology,” (TOFT), which was not a tax-exempt organization. Howard also established the “Constance A ‘Connie’ Howard Computer Technology Scholarship Fund. Howard represented that the purpose of the fund was to provide scholarships to persons in need who were seeking a degree in computer science and related fields.
In July 2003, Howard established an annual event known as the “Tee Off for Technology Celebrity Golf Outing.” Howard represented that the purpose of the organization and the annual golf outing was to serve as a fundraising mechanism for the scholarship fund. Because TOFT was not a tax-exempt organization, it partnered with tax-exempt organizations to serve as TOFT’s fiscal agent to ensure that donations to TOFT and the scholarship fund were tax deductible.
In the plea agreement between Howard and the government, at sentencing, the government agrees to recommend to the court a sentence of no more than 12 months to be served as six months in prison to be followed by a term of supervised release that includes a condition that six months of supervised release be served as home detention. The parties agree that the advisory sentencing guidelines for the offense would be 12 to 18 months in prison. Under terms of the plea agreement, if the court does not accept the plea agreement, the defendant has a right to withdraw her plea of guilty. Howard has not been detained and remains free on her own recognizance pending sentencing.
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 investigation was 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. 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.