Former East St. Louis library director Marlon Bush appeared in federal court Thursday on embezzlement and wire-fraud charges alleging he bought concert and Dallas Mavericks tickets on a taxpayer-backed credit card.
Bush appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson, who noted that he recognized Bush from the time when Wilkerson worked as a teacher in East St. Louis School District 189.
"You were a few pounds lighter then," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson presided over the arraignment, but the case will be handled by U.S. District Judge Staci Yandle in Benton, 100 miles away.
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Bush faces three counts of wire fraud and three counts of embezzlement.
During the arraignment, Bush, 47, presented a financial affidavit. Wilkerson found, based on the financial information, that Bush could not afford to hire an attorney, so the judge appointed the U.S. Public Defender's Office to represent him.
Bush's salary at the library district could not be determined. The Belleville News-Democrat has requested, under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, copies of the district's budgets, payroll, grant applications and credit card statements. The request was made March 27. When the district did not respond, the request was forwarded to the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor.
On Thursday, the district's attorney, Eric Evans sent a letter to the Public Access Counselor's Office, stating many documents were seized by local law enforcement in connection with the investigation into Bush.
"As such, the only documents presently available are the board minutes from January 2017 to present and copies of the payroll records from 2013 to present," Evans stated in the letter.
Federal agents also seized credit card and bank statements from the East St. Louis Township when former Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton was charged with making fraudulent credit card purchases on a taxpayer-supported American Express card. Hamilton was sentenced to five years in prison by U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan.
At the hearing on Thursday, Bush was released on a recognizance bond — a promise to appear in court later. He was ordered to turn over his Firearm Owner's Identification Card, his concealed-carry card and his passport.
Bush could receive a sentence of up to 20 years in prison on each of the charges of wire fraud and 10 years on each count of embezzlement and a fine of $250,000.
Bush entered a plea of not guilty.
Wilkerson asked Bush whether he had used any drugs or alcohol in the past 24 hours — a routine question for defendants.
"Yes. A cold beer last night," he responded.