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Press Release

Former Director of Operations of Rockford Non-Profit Organization Sentenced to Prison for Fraud

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

ROCKFORD — The former director of operations of a Rockford non-profit organization was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard to 37 months in prison for mail fraud and tax fraud.

LEILANI HILLIS, 60, formerly of Rockford, was also ordered to pay restitution of $632,718.99 on the mail fraud charge and $151,186.91 on the tax fraud charge.  Hillis pleaded guilty to the charges in March.

The sentencing 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 Tara Sullivan, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

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 made with the organization’s credit card.

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 to 2017, Hillis failed to pay $151,186.91 in federal income taxes.

Updated July 10, 2019

Financial Fraud