Federal Grand Jury Indicts Two Peoria, Illinois, Residents for Fraud Related to COVID Relief Funds and Unemployment Insurance
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment that charges Candace Faye Wanzo, 57, of Centralia, Ill., with defrauding the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office and the Illinois Department of Revenue of nearly $350,000. During the time of the alleged fraud, from March 2015 to April 2017, Wanzo was employed at the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office as administrator and supervisor of Vehicle Services. In this capacity, Wanzo was responsible for operation of the Public Service Center located in the Howlett Building, in Springfield, Ill., where, among other services, vehicle owners may pay title and registration fees, apply and pay for license plates, and make sales tax payments related to the sale of vehicles.
The indictment alleges that Wanzo stole title and registration fees and sales tax payments. Wanzo allegedly concealed the theft of title and registration fees by replacing stolen funds with title and registration fees from other vehicle owners. Wanzo also allegedly used the United Parcel Service (UPS) rather than the U.S. Mail to deliver license plates to conceal the delay caused by Wanzo having to locate and use other funds to replace stolen funds.
According to the indictment, from March 2015 to April 2017, Wanzo misapplied approximately $303,649 in title and registration fees to conceal title and registration fees that she had previously stolen. In October 2015, without superiors’ permission or knowledge, Wanzo allegedly changed the SOS policy of not accepting cash for sales tax payments and directed staff to begin accepting cash for the sales tax payments. Staff were directed to deliver the cash to her at the end of the day in a yellow envelope. Wanzo also directed her staff to submit any customer complaints directly to her in order to conceal the complaints from her superiors.
In addition to the $303,649 in misapplied title and registration fees, the indictment alleges that Wanzo stole approximately $40,102 in sales tax payments from December 2008 to April 2017.
If convicted, the statutory penalty for each count of mail fraud (three counts) is not more than 20 years in prison and not more than three years of supervision. For the offenses of intentional misapplication of Secretary of State fees (one count) and for theft of Illinois Department of Revenue sales tax payments (one count), the penalty is not more than 10 years in prison and not more than three years of supervision.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the Illinois Secretary of State Inspector General’s Office which referred the matter to federal law enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris is representing the government in the prosecution.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.