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Anna Bixby Center
Former director of Anna Bixby Center gets probation, $60,000 fine on wire fraud charges

HARRISBURG — The former director of the Anna Bixby Women’s Center was back in court Tuesday in Harrisburg. Barbara Wingo pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, a Class 3 felony.

Wingo and her daughter, Terrie Wingo-Eichorn, former assistant director of Anna Bixby Women’s Center, were both named in charges filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in March 2015 in Saline County. They were accused of falsifying documents in order to receive grants for fictitious services for victims of domestic violence, loan fraud and taking funds from the center to purchase items such as a computer, LCD television and Nintendo Wii for personal use.

Wingo was originally charged with nine additional counts, all of which were dropped Tuesday: organizing a continuing criminal financial crimes enterprise, a Class X felony; continuing a financial crime enterprise, a Class 1 felony; trustee misusing funds greater than $1,000, a Class 2 Felony; forgery – making or altering a document — a Class 3 felony; two Class A misdemeanor counts of forgery; and Class A misdemeanors of loan fraud, defrauding a financial institution and obtaining money from a financial institution, all less than $500.

Wingo also was sentenced Tuesday. She received 30 months of probation and was ordered to pay $53,642 in restitution plus court costs for a total of $60,000. The court kept $50,000 in bail, which was applied to the total. Wingo must pay the remaining $10,000 by April 10, 2018.

Wingo-Eichorn was originally charged with continuing a financial crime enterprise, a Class 1 felony; trustee misuse of funds, a Class 2 felony; two counts of forgery, Class 3 felonies; wire fraud, Class 3 felony; money laundering, Class 3 felony; loan fraud, defrauding a financial institution, and employee bribing a financial institution, all Class A misdemeanors.

Wingo-Eichorn pleaded guilty July 20, 2017, to wire fraud and money laundering, and the additional charged were dropped. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 24 in Saline County court.

In addition to criminal charges, both women are named as defendants in a chancery suit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan on behalf of the people of the State of Illinois. A case management conference is scheduled for Dec. 1.

Anna Bixby Women’s Center has closed.

The Women’s Center, a Carbondale-based provider of domestic violence services, opened a satellite office in January 2016 to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Gallatin, Johnson and Saline counties.

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Cairo Housing Crisis
Durbin, Phelps Finnie meet with Cairo seventh graders to talk housing, hope

CAIRO — At a roundtable talk Tuesday at the Cairo Junior/Senior High School, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin had no real update for a group of seventh graders regarding the future of public housing in Cairo, but gave them a platform to have their voices heard and encouraged them to not give up hope on themselves or their town.

“You can make a difference,” Durbin told the students, who gained national attention last school year after they wrote letters to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson following HUD’s announcement it would be demolishing two housing developments in Cairo.

“You are just as important as anyone else,” Durbin said.

Many of the question Durbin fielded during the talk are what would be expected from a school meeting — how long have you been a senator, where do you stay when not in Washington, have you met the president — but a few hit home.

“What is your course of action for the housing crisis,” Kyle Cook asked.

Durbin replied by telling the students he is advocating for developers to bring prefabricated homes to Cairo to be used for Section 8 housing. He said a lot was still up in the air and that no firm decisions have been made.

After the meeting ended, students filed back to their classes. Demarion Duncan said even though no news was shared by the senator, he still saw the visit as an affirming “life lesson.”

“He said he was going to support us,” Duncan said. “He said he was disagreeing with them about shutting it completely down without having another place for all of us to go.”

This question of where people will go is a common one among students at Cairo schools. Duncan, who lives in the McBride housing complex on Cairo’s southern end, said his family hopes to find a place to stay in Cairo if they can, but he said they are looking to places like Metropolis or Carbondale as second options.

Duncan said he is torn — on the one hand he likes living in Cairo and even in McBride, but he is also tempted by the opportunities other places offer.

Duncan said he was in Atlanta over the summer and was excited to learn that he could play summer baseball there. He was too late this year, but hopes to get to go back south next summer to play. He said there isn’t a similar option for him in Cairo.

Latrece Brooker’s family has already made the decision to leave Cairo and relocate to Cape Girardeau. She will move before winter break.

Brooker said in her last few days at Cairo Junior High School, walking through the halls will remind her of how much she has grown as a student in Cairo. She is both excited and sad to be leaving. Brooker said she is glad for more opportunities, but sad to leave the places and people she has known for so many years. 

Durbin said the uncertainty these children are facing is unacceptable.

“They just want to live normal lives. They want to be kids going to school and not worry about this stuff,” he said. “We grownups have to do a better jobs.”

Natalie Phelps Finnie, who recently replaced Brandon Phelps as state representative of the 118th District, sat in on the meeting and said she wanted students at the school to know she and others in Springfield and Washington have their backs.

“When government fails them, they lose trust,” she said. “I wanted to give them a message of, ‘Don’t lose hope.’”

When questioned about specific next steps for Cairo’s housing residents, Durbin said he didn’t have many answers, but will continue to fight, despite proposed funding cuts to HUD’s budget coming from the White House — he said he isn’t sure what kind of support he could expect for proposals made to HUD for new buildings.

“It’s a bad time in Washington to be looking for initiative and leadership in this area, but we are going to continue to try,” Durbin said.


Cairo students Karmond Lowe (left) and Latrece Brooker read a return letter from Housing and Urban Development Director Ben Carson that was delivered to the school Tuesday, May 2, 2017, after the students had written letters to Carson about the future of Cairo. 

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State Budget Crisis
Billions in Illinois bills not sent for payment

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is chasing a moving target as it tries to dig out of the nation's worst budget crisis, and a review obtained by The Associated Press shows $7.5 billion worth of unpaid bills — as much as half the total — hadn't been sent to the official who writes the checks by the end of June.

Although many of those IOUs have since been paid, a similar amount in unprocessed bills has replaced them in the last three months, Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office said Monday. That's in addition to $9 billion worth of checks that are at the office but being delayed because the state lacks the money to pay them.

The mound of past-due bills tripled over the two years Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly were locked in a budget stalemate, which ended in July when lawmakers hiked income taxes over Rauner's vetoes.

In some cases, agencies were waiting to send their receipts to Mendoza because lawmakers haven't approved the spending. For example, the Department of Corrections had $471 million in unpaid bills on hand as of June 30 largely for that reason.

"Ascertaining the precise nature of the state's past-due obligations and liabilities is an essential component of responsible cash and debt management," the Democratic comptroller wrote in a letter to Republican Rep. David McSweeney, a budget hawk from Barrington Hills who requested the review.

Mendoza and McSweeney plan to use the findings to urge lawmakers to override Rauner's veto of legislation that would require monthly reporting of bills not yet submitted for processing. The measure, authored by Mendoza's office, would include a breakdown of how old each bill is and which ones have received legislative approval to be paid.

"The governor supports more transparency on the state of our finances," Rauner spokesman Hud Englehart said in an email to AP. "He vetoed this bill because the State does not have adequate technology in place to cost effectively provide this information monthly."

The age of bills is important because many that are 90 days or older face a 1 percent-per-month late-payment fee; about $5.5 billion of the current $15.9 billion backlog is subject to the penalty. Mendoza estimates the state will ultimately pay $900 million in late-payment fees on the existing pile of debt.

The Department of Central Management Services, which handles personnel, procurement and employee health care, has most of the June 30 bundle, with $5.8 billion. That's mostly doctor's bills owed to employee medical providers under the state group health insurance plan.

McSweeney's call for the overview coincided with the current Oct. 1 deadline for publicizing the amount of bills held at agencies at a fiscal year's end. McSweeney said with Illinois swimming in debt, including a $130 billion shortfall in what's needed to pay employee pensions and other long-term borrowing, check-writers need more exact information.

"With a $16 billion backlog of unpaid bills, and $200 billion in total liabilities when you add in the pension debt, I don't trust this governor, I don't trust this administration," McSweeney said. "We need monthly reporting."

Typically, when a governor and Legislature agree on a budget, the legislation authorizing it includes appropriations bills. If money is spent that isn't approved, lawmakers must do it after the fact in a supplemental appropriation. Rauner has complained that the budget legislative Democrats approved in July is $1.7 billion short of being balanced. Democrats have countered that the governor spent money last year that wasn't approved. Neither side has elaborated.

Democrats have signaled they plan to attack Rauner's budget management during his 2018 re-election campaign

Mendoza, who beat Rauner's hand-picked candidate in a special election for comptroller last fall, has wrangled with the governor over issues related to the deficit and the backlog, including one spat over which fund to use to pay particular bills.

The Legislature returns for its fall session Oct. 24.

Williamson County
O'Fallon, Illinois, man dead after I-57 crash in Williamson County

MARION — A 57-year-old O'Fallon, Illinois, man is dead after a three-vehicle crash on northbound Interstate 57 Tuesday morning that closed northbound lanes of the interstate at Illinois 148 for several hours. 

According to a news release from Illinois State Police, at 10:14 a.m. Wayne S. Maxwell of O'Fallon was driving a GMC van northbound on I-57 and slowed to nearly a stop at milepost 47 because of a construction project about a mile ahead of him. A Kenworth semi-trailer driven by Jagpreet Singh of Lenexa, Kansas, was in front of Maxwell; Singh had also slowed because of the construction. A Freightliner semi-trailer driven by Willie Lee Shelby of Madison, Mississippi, struck the rear of Maxwell's van, shoving it into the back of Singh's Kenworth semi-trailer. 

Maxwell died as a result of the crash; he was pronounced dead on the scene by Williamson County coroner Junior Burke.

All northbound traffic was diverted off of I-57 at exit 45, the exit for Illinois 148, until 2:45 p.m. 

All three vehicles were towed from the scene because of damage. 

Shelby was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash. The news release said additional charges could be brought pending further investigation by ISP crash reconstruction officers.