Accountant sentenced to four years

Cala Smoldt/Staff Reporter

Sentencing for Richard "Rick" Lee, 53, former accountant for the Aledo Park District took place Friday, July 11 in Mercer County Court. Lee plead guilty to stealing funds from the Aledo Park District on Dec. 23. At that time the State dismissed the Official Misconduct charge against him, and agreed not to file any additional charges against him on current known cases of alleged misconduct.

State's Attorney Greg McHugh, for the prosecution, recommended 5 1/2 years prison. Judge Karole Pentuic sentenced him to 4 years prison, however, he is eligible for 'day for day' credit, meaning he will likely only serve two years at most. The Department of Corrections also has incentives for inmates to earn 'credit' for good behavior, an upstanding inmate will get credit in the form of days off their sentence.

After investigation, Lee was found to have stolen $88,236.69 from January 2010 - April 2013. According to Exhibit A, a letter from Jennifer Coombes C.P.A., auditor for the Aledo Park District, "identified an additional $38,347.27 of misappropriated funds for the period of August 2008-Dec. 2009, however, due to legal proceedings the time frame cannot go further back than January 2010."

The total restitution Lee was ordered to pay amounted to $136,891.40. This total comes from late fees associated with unpaid bills for which he was responsible for the Aledo Park District, their attorney and auditing fees associated with his criminal behavior and court costs.

During the sentencing hearing Lee submitted a check to go toward restitution in the amount of $84,315. Leaving the balance at $32,891.40.

State's Attorney McHugh said that during the hearing Lee admitted to taking $40,000 from the Ostrander Estate he was an accountant for, however, the state did not bring charges against him for that. "He got the minimum for prison," said McHugh, "we couldn't give him three if we wanted to." McHugh said they could have charged him a Class X felony because he stole over 100,000, instead he was convicted of one class lower resulting in lesser possible consequences. As a Class 1 Felony the maximum he could have received for his crime is 15 years prison, yet he got the minimum, four years.

According to the Pre-Sentence Investigation report his motive for taking the money was "to help a failing business, 3D Concrete. Mr. Lee stated it was the 'worst decision of my life.' He further related he thought he could save the company and get the money paid back." Earlier in the report it says, "In regard to the victim in this cause, Mr. Lee stated he wants the Aledo Park District to get all the money back."

Aledo Park District President, Jason Snyder was interviewed for the PSI Report, the document records him as saying, "the entire board had their eyes opened by what happened and it has been very frustrating and caused "chaos" with their agency..... Mr. Snyder related the money taken was the tax payers' money and this money should have been used to improve their parks and the programs provided by the park district when instead it was used for the defendant's own personal use and/or gain....."

"Stealing from one person is bad enough, but it was the park district he stole from - he stole from the whole community," Commented Linda Schroeder, Mercer County Victim's Advocate.

He is to report to Mercer County Jail on Friday, July 18 to be transported to DOC.