Metro-East News

Local corruption probe results in felony charges for six people

William Berry - Fotolia

A former top-ranking East St. Louis official was among six people indicted Friday as part of Operation Watchtower, an investigation by prosecutors and police into government corruption.

Robert L. Betts, of Swansea, a former East St. Louis city manager who once headed the city’s Department of Regulatory Affairs, was charged with harassing a witness, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said. According to a criminal complaint, Betts allegedly threatened Australian-born businessman Richard Treloar with a handgun while at a bar in the city in September.

Treloar said at the time that he and Betts got into a heated discussion over money stemming from a joint business deal.

Others indicted included a Belleville city employee, an East St. Louis police officer, and a former Cahokia village employee.

In 2009, while Betts was city manager, Internal Revenue Service agents served a subpoena at East St. Louis City Hall and seized boxes of records connected to the city’s tax increment financing program.

In July 2015, while he headed the regulatory affairs office, Betts was fired and escorted from City Hall by police. The department that he headed was locked. He commented at the time that he did not know why he had been fired by the City Council.

Betts was charged with a class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison for allegedly harassing Treloar, a witness, and with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a Class A misdemeanor.

Also charged Friday in unrelated cases were:

▪  Aunye T. Mabry, a Belleville treasurer’s office cashier, with forgery and perjury in connection with delivering an allegedly fraudulent document to the city clerk’s office regarding her candidacy for city clerk. Perjury, a Class 3 felony, is punishable by two to five years in prison.

▪  Trevon L. Tompkins, a former village of Cahokia employee, with official misconduct and theft of government property under $500, a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years incarceration. He is charged with fraudulently using a village government credit card for his own purposes and with official misconduct, a Class 3 felony and with improperly taking control of public property also valued under $500.

▪  Debra Cole, an East St. Louis police officer, with official misconduct for allegedly falsifying a “medical note” on which dates had been changed while acting as a police officer, a Class 3 felony.

▪  Victor L. McCarter of East St. Louis with two counts of theft by deception under $500 in that he allegedly converted to his personal use rental payments intended to pay for the rent of the East St. Louis Republican Central Committee. This is a Class 3 felony.

▪  Alex L. Hodges of Fairview Heights with illegally using emergency lights on a personal vehicle “and without legal authority” to detain a citizen. This is a Class 2 felony. Hodges was also charged with impersonating a peace officer, a Class 4 felony.

It was not immediately clear whether any or all of the six defendants were being held by police or at the county jail.

In December, eight people were charged with felony corruption as the result of Operation Watchtower. They included East St. Louis Councilwoman June Hamilton Dean for forgery, and East St. Louis Township Trustee Edith Moore for forgery and violating an election law statute.

Michael “Rump” Roberts, an East St. Louis Township trustee, was charged with improperly using a public credit card to travel with former township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton and their wives to Las Vegas. Hamilton is facing sentencing in April on his guilty plea in federal court in East St. Louis to wire fraud involving at least $40,000 in fraudulent charges on a taxpayer-supported American Express card.

The Belleville News-Democrat published a series of investigative articles last year that reported that Hamilton, the owner of a construction company, ran up charges of $230,000 on the public credit card, including personal trips, building supplies, tractor tires and parts and $40,000 in personal gasoline purchases.