Eight public officials and one private citizen were arrested Monday on corruption charges, including East St. Louis Councilwoman June Hamilton Dean, East St. Louis Township Trustee Edith R. Moore and St. Clair County Board of Review member Michael Crockett Jr.
Hamilton Dean was arrested on charges of forgery and public contractor misconduct, Moore was charged with forgery and voting law violation charges and Crockett was accused of official misconduct and bribery.
Also arrested were auxiliary Washington Park police officer Anthony Davis on a charge of official misconduct and East St. Louis Township Trustee Michael “Rump” Roberts, charged with using a public credit card to pay for a trip to Las Vegas for him and his wife.
The sweeping charges were the result of a joint state and federal investigation called Operation Watchtower. They were announced throughout the day Monday as the individuals were arrested, and later at a press conference at Illinois State Police headquarters in Collinsville.
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“These allegations represent an old and cynical way of thinking,” St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said in a press release. “The people’s trust in our public institutions is frayed, but our best hope has been and still is in the law, and it is by following the law both when it is easy and when it is hard that we can move forward.”
According to criminal complaints issued by the St. Clair County state’s attorney’s office:
▪ Hamilton Dean, 53, of Swansea, was charged for “knowingly making a false document,” allegedly a false letter of employment for another person “with the intent to defraud.” Her bail was set at $30,000.
▪ Raeshaunta S. Lacey, 45, of Swansea, was accused of receiving an altered document allegedly from Hamilton Dean. Lacey was charged with forgery because she allegedly “knowingly delivered a false document” to a rental office. Her bail was set at $10,000.
▪ Crockett, 55, of Millstadt, was charged with official misconduct and bribery for allegedly acting in his official capacity with the intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another. According to the complaint, he “formed an act of excess of his lawful authority, in that in exchange for U.S. currency, he assisted in reducing property taxes on the land located at 3330-3338 Camp Jackson Road, Cahokia.” His arrest was the result of a federal and state investigation.
▪ Moore, 68, of East St. Louis, faces three counts of forgery and voting violations stemming from a political battle for Democratic precinct committeeman in the 20th Precinct, where Moore was defeated. Moore, who also is the head of the East St. Louis Community Development Office, a former city manager and a former member of the East St. Louis Housing Authority trustee board, “knowingly prevented another person from lawfully voting,” according to the complaint. She was released on her own recognizance because of health reasons.
▪ Roberts, 70, of East St. Louis, was charged with “official misconduct/personal advantage” for allegedly accepting airline tickets to fly to Las Vegas with his wife. His bail was set at $20,000.
▪ Davis, 25, of Cahokia, an auxiliary police officer in Washington Park, was charged with misconduct for allegedly providing false information to an Illinois State Trooper investigating a crash involving Davis. His bail was set at $10,000.
▪ Teanna A. Gillespie, 26, of East St. Louis, an Alorton police officer, was charged with two counts of possessing a firearm without a state-issued Firearm Owner Identification Card. She allegedly possessed a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun.
▪ Christopher Malone, 41, of Swansea, a U.S. postal worker, was charged with official misconduct and theft of government property.
▪ Jo Ann Reed, 58, former mayor of Alorton, was charged with knowingly giving or promising to give money to another person to vote, or to influence that person to vote for or against any candidate or ballot question. She is also accused of electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place.
All of the charges are eligible for probation under Illinois law.
These allegations represent an old and cynical way of thinking. The people’s trust in our public institutions is frayed, but our best hope has been and still is in the law, and it is by following the law both when it is easy and when it is hard that we can move forward.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly
Besides sitting on the East St. Louis City Council, Hamilton Dean is a $33,000-a-year financial consultant for East St. Louis Township and the sister of Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton, 62, who pleaded guilty last week to wire fraud involving making $40,000 in personal purchases on a public credit card. She also is a civilian employee at Scott Air Force Base.
The arrest of Hamilton Dean follows a lengthy investigation by the Belleville News-Democrat that found Oliver Hamilton ran up $230,000 in purchases on the card from 2012-16 for such items as plane tickets to Las Vegas for himself and his wife, tires for a tractor used by his construction company, building supplies including drywall and paint, and nearly $40,000 in gasoline. Hamilton told reporters he would provide proof of repayment for some items but never did.
Hamilton pleaded guilty Thursday to federal wire fraud charges. He agreed to step down as township supervisor, turn over the American Express card and forfeit access to township bank accounts. He is scheduled for sentencing on March 1. Prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that would have Hamilton serve a year and a day and pay restitution, but U.S. District Court Judge Michael Reagan said he is not bound by that agreement and could release Hamilton on probation or sentence him for up to 20 years in prison.
Hamilton Dean also made questionable purchases on a township credit card account, including trips, gasoline, restaurant tabs, $291 at an IKEA furniture store and a $171 at a Honey Baked Ham store in Olivette, Mo., the BND investigation found. She has declined to comment about her credit card purchases.
East St. Louis Township is one of the poorest areas of the state with 47 percent of the population living below the federal poverty line.
Kelly pointed out that both Oliver Hamilton and June Hamilton Dean were paid, in part, from state and federal grants received by the township for an anti-violence program called “Ceasefire.”
“It’s fair to ask if there are bodies of government in Illinois outliving their uselessness that are vulnerable to this kind of corruption,” Kelly said at a press conference. “While the people of East St. Louis continue to suffer from a disproportionate amount of violence, and while police officers are risking their lives to stop it, you have two public officials underwriting their phony-baloney jobs with a so-called Ceasefire grant.”
The investigation was handled by the FBI, IRS, Illinois State Police, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. attorney’s and St. Clair County state’s attorney’s offices.
“The future of investigating public corruption in the metro-east will be cooperation between the federal and state governments,” said Donald Boyce, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.