ZEIGLER — An audit report from accountant Dennis Uhls provides a final number of how much former Zeigler treasurer Ryan Thorpe allegedly stole from the city and recommends a change-up in commissioner seats.
According to the report filed by Uhls Friday, he found a total of $315,890.94 that was allegedly stolen by Thorpe from Jan. 1, 2013, to Aug. 31, 2017. Uhls said in the report that “Thorpe has altered check images from the bank statements and given these falsified records to me for the Fiscal year end audits.”
Uhls also said in the report that he found that Thorpe had allegedly falsified accounting records in the city’s computer system that provided financial reports to the city council to “try to cover up theft.”
In August, FBI agents executed search warrants on Zeigler’s City Hall as well as Thorpe’s home, where agents confiscated documents as well as personal items.
Thorpe was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 3 on a five-count indictment, charging him with three counts of wire fraud and two counts of embezzlement from a local government, alleging he stole funds during his tenure as Zeigler’s treasurer.
According to the report provided by Uhls, the first amount allegedly stolen by Thorpe was $42.60, in a check written March 4, 2013. The majority of money taken, Zeigler Mayor Denis Mitchell said, were a result of hand-written checks, which he added the city no longer writes.
Much of this had been reported anecdotally or in partial reports, but the document filed Friday provided Uhls’ final analysis. Because of this, Mitchell said none of it surprises him — not even the recommendation Uhls made to reassign finance commissioner Jim Flood.
“Even if the council has to ‘draw straws’ to who will be Jim’s replacement, you need to do it,” Uhls said in the cover letter to Friday’s report. His reason for having Flood replaced stems from his “close ties to former City Treasurer Ryan Thorpe” and reports that Flood has allegedly intimidated city employees.
“If city management does not follow a C.P.A.’s recommendations on such important matter of internal control, I will have no choice but to report this matter in my audit report that goes to the Illinois Comptroller and the City’s Federal and State grant agencies,” Uhls wrote.
As for who will fill this post, Mitchell said he had two people in mind — Dorothy Bagwell-O’Brian, Zeigler’s streets commissioner, or Virgil Gunter, the city’s public safety commissioner. He said the topic has been broached with Bagwell-O’Brian, but Mitchell said she wanted to wait until the final report was released to make a decision.
“This isn’t exactly a sought-after post,” Mitchell said of finance commissioner, citing intense outside scrutiny of the position.
Jim Flood could not be reached for this report.
Contained in Uhls’ report is also a determination letter dated Oct. 10 from the Illinois Department of Employment Security denying payment to Thorpe of unemployment insurance.
“Since the reason the claimant was discharged was within the claimant’s control to avoid, the claimant was discharged for misconduct connected with the work. The claimant is ineligible for benefits,” the letter said.
Included in the report also are requests from Uhls to Chris Scroggins, the city’s CPA, to issue miscellaneous income forms to Thorpe for the money Uhls concluded he stole from the city. The largest yearly sum Thorpe reportedly took was in 2016, when the report claims he stole $105,153.39.
Thorpe will appear Thursday for arraignment before a federal judge in Benton. Mitchell said he plans to attend, seeing Thorpe for the first time since he was brought by agents to City Hall in August to return his keys, where Mitchell said he “didn’t say one word.”
“I don’t really have any anger. I should be angry,” Mitchell said. He said he doesn’t anticipate having a strong emotion when he sees Thorpe on Thursday.
According to a release sent from U.S. Attorney Donald Boyce’s office earlier this month, each count of wire fraud carries with it a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and each count of embezzlement comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. It also indicated that the indictment seeks forfeiture of several items, including a woman’s diamond ring, property in Zeigler, a portable building, firearms, two motorcycles, two side-by-side utility vehicles and a utility trailer.