The former manager of a metro-east water district has been charged with stealing public funds and using a water district credit card for personal use.
Brian Buske, who was a supervisor at the Pontoon Beach Public Water District, has been charged with one count of wire fraud. Buske is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 6 in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois, according to court records.
The charge comes about seven months after the FBI launched an investigation into Buske’s alleged misconduct during his time as an employee at the water district.
Buske did not return a phone call seeking comment, and an attorney for Buske could not be reached.
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Minutes from the June 2016 meeting of the water district board had showed that following a closed session regarding personnel, Buske’s employment was terminated for “misappropriation of funds.”
Buske was the water district manager for a little more than two years in Pontoon Beach. Court documents said he worked there from 2007 until June 2016 when the board voted unanimously to end his employment.
As district manager, part of Buske’s job was to oversee day-to-day operations, pay district bills and process payroll.
Court documents state that Buske was the only employee that made bank deposits from customers’ cash and check payments. The cash and check payments were stored in a safe and were typically deposited every three days, according to the charges. However, the charges say the board chairman, Chris Hankins, had noticed in May 2016 that the district was a month behind in making bank deposits, and the money was missing from the safe.
Court documents state Buske was confronted about the missing funds. That’s when Buske allegedly retrieved four deposit summaries with the corresponding checks and cash from his truck, but four other deposits were still missing.
“Buske admitted to taking the money and later returned with $5,323 in cash,” the indictment alleges, “the amount of money corresponding to the records of the missing deposits.”
In addition, Buske is accused of falsifying check stubs to cover up personal expenses made on a Bank of America credit card issued by the water district.
“Check stubs were supposed to record the payment of legitimate district expenses, however some of the stubs falsified who the payee was to conceal personal expenses made by Buske ...,” the indictment said.
Hankins, the board chairman, had said in September that records showed credit card transactions that were “not normally made by district employees.”
The charges state that transactions included a payment of an electric bill, insurance, cell phone bills and other personal expenses.
Credit card statements obtained by the News-Democrat under an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request showed that Buske spent $500 at Kay Jewelers on April 28 and $509.99 at Cabelas.com on April 22.
Prosecutors recommended Buske’s bail be set at $10,000. A spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Buske was not in custody as of Thursday.
A court order filed last week said Buske’s attorney requested an arraignment be rescheduled from Feb. 8 to Feb. 6 at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Williams is expected to preside over the arraignment next month.
A spokesman for the Pontoon Beach Public Water District declined to comment on the case.