Metro-East News

Hamilton sentencing rescheduled; admits misuse of credit card was ‘shameless’

Former East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton has admitted in a federal court sentencing document that misusing a taxpayer-funded credit card was “shameless” and “mindless” and agreed that a recommended sentence of 366 days in a federal lockup was fair.

Under an agreement with the government, Hamilton would also be placed on supervised release for three years and pay $40,000 in restitution, although that amount might be increased when a probation department report is presented at sentencing.

In the meantime, Hamilton’s sentencing has been reset from Friday to April 7 because of a scheduling conflict with East St. Louis federal court District Court Judge Michael Reagan.

In an 8-page sentencing memorandum, Hamilton’s lawyer, Clyde Kuehn, stressed that his client had admitted wrongdoing, cooperated with prosecutors and should be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” to meet the ends of justice set forth in a 2007 federal appeals court ruling known as U.S. vs. Harris.

Hamilton, 63, pleaded guilty to a single count of federal wire fraud in December, and agreed to step down as township supervisor. He also agreed to not have any involvement with bank accounts containing public funds including a no-limit American Express card that he used over four years to charge about $230,000. The agreement also requires that he lose pensions from his term as township supervisor, St. Clair County Board member and member of the East Side Health District board.

The News-Democrat published a series of investigative articles last year that reported that Hamilton, who owns a construction company, used the public credit card to buy tens of thousands of dollars in building supplies, took numerous personal trips including to Las Vegas with his wife, and bought about $40,000 in gasoline. He also spent thousands of dollars at a car-detailing center to keep his Chevy Silverado pickup looking new and regularly purchased gifts for his friends and political cronies using funds intended to help needy residents of one of the poorest communities in Illinois.

Kuehn’s memorandum also stated that Hamilton received 22 letters of support from residents who lauded him for helping the elderly and needy by cutting grass and clearing debris from township neighborhoods as well as helping with construction projects at churches.

Nothing in the court document contested anything put forth by the government in its sentencing memorandum, which remains under court seal, but Kuehn wrote, “... that to the extent that the government’s discussion of $200,000 in expenditures might be taken to suggest that $200,000 of fraudulent use was engaged in by the defendant, such suggestion would simply not be true.”

Kuehn also wrote in his argument that not all of Hamilton’s actions with the credit card “were done to line his own pockets.”

“His abuse of trust by his use of the credit card should not completely overshadow his genuine work on behalf of his constituents,” Kuehn wrote.

New township supervisor Tommy Dancy and the township board have pushed and approved financial safeguards including abolishing credit card use except for one gas card, requiring that expenses be first presented to the trustee board before they are approved or disapproved and an ongoing review of the list of township employees to determine how many were hired without board approval.

The board also accepted the resignation of Hamilton’s sister, June Hamilton Dean, who was paid $33,000 as a financial consultant. Hamilton Dean is also a member of the East St. Louis City Council. She faces a state corruption charge of “knowingly making a false document,” that stated another person was a township employee.

The BND’s stories about the credit card use reported that Hamilton Dean also used a no-limit American Express card backed by public funds to take a trip to Chicago, buy furniture at an IKEA outlet and purchase honey-baked hams just before Christmas.

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

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