Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Director of Operations of a Rockford Non-Profit Organization Pleads Guilty to Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

ROCKFORD — LEILANI HILLIS, 60, of Rockford, the former director of operations of a Rockford non-profit organization, pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Kapala to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax fraud.

According to a written plea agreement, since 2001 Hillis was an employee of a non-profit organization whose mission was to attract, retain and expand jobs in the Rockford area.  The organization received funding from private sources and local governments. During her employment, Hillis handled the organization’s payroll, human resource matters and accounting, and oversaw the annual audit.  As of 2009, Hillis had signatory authority on the organization’s bank account and access to the organization’s PayPal account.  The organization issued employees, including Hillis, a credit card in the employee’s name.  From 2009 through April 2018, Hillis used her employee-issued credit card to make unauthorized purchases for her personal benefit totaling $632,718.99.  Hillis concealed her crime by using the organization’s accounting codes to make it appear the purchases were for the organization’s benefit, and she forged the initials of the organization’s president on the expense reports.  Hillis issued and signed checks from the organization’s account to the bank, knowing the payments included money to pay for her unauthorized purchases.

Hillis also admitted that she did not report as income the money from the organization that she used to pay the organization’s credit card for her unauthorized personal purchases.  As a result, for the tax years 2014 through 2017, Hillis failed to pay $151,186.91 in federal income taxes.

HILLIS faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment for mail fraud, and a maximum sentence of three years for tax fraud, while each charge also carries a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from that offense, whichever is greater, plus full restitution. The actual sentence will be determined by the United States District Court, guided by the Sentencing Guidelines.  Sentencing for Hillis is set for June 27, 2019, at 9:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard. 

The guilty plea was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

Updated March 6, 2019