Metro-East News

Former Southern Illinois city treasurer pleads guilty to embezzling $329,000

A former Zeigler city treasurer pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to embezzling more than $321,000 from the city and using the money to buy motorcycles, firearms, a diamond ring and other items.

Ryan Thorpe, 44, pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and embezzlement from a local government. Thorpe admitted to embezzling $321,399.22 by writing checks payable to himself, drawn on the city’s account.

He admitted to concealing his thefts by using white-out to take his name off the check copies and writing in the names of vendors and suppliers with whom the city did business. He would then photocopy the altered checks, place them into the bank records, then shred the originals.

"Corruption by public officials simply cannot be tolerated," Donald Boyce, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said. "Officials who steal from the citizens they are elected and appointed to represent commit a gross abuse of public trust."

Thorpe's plea agreement included a requirement to turn over items he purchased with embezzled funds. They include two motorcycles, a utility trailer, a woman's diamond ring, firearms, a four-propeller drone and more. He also forfeited personal property, two retirement accounts and a camper. Once all the items are forfeited and sold, they will be applied to his restitution for the full amount he embezzled, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Thorpe will be sentenced in federal court June 12. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the three wire fraud charges; and 10 years plus a $250,000 fine on each of the embezzlement counts.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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