Highland News Leader

Highland woman pleads guilty to stealing money meant for needy families

Amy Mueller
Amy Mueller Courtesy image

A former Illinois Department of Human Services caseworker from Highland pleaded guilty Monday to stealing thousands of dollars in assistance for needy families and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Amy Mueller, 40, pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft in Madison County Criminal Court before Judge Kyle Napp. In addition to the prison time, and she was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution.

Instead of assisting families in need, this defendant stole tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

Mueller was a former IDHS caseworker at the department’s Madison County Family Community Resource Center. She created fake benefit accounts using legitimate clients’ personal information then made cash withdrawals that she spent for her personal use, including on vacations, restaurant visits, massages, tanning sessions and nail salons.

“Instead of assisting families in need, this defendant stole tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Madigan’s Public Integrity Bureau, with assistance from IDHS and the Illinois State Police, investigated the case.

In the original charges, Madigan alleged Mueller stole approximately $159,222 while she was an employee of IDHS. Mueller worked for IDHS from 1998 to 2015. The thefts occurred from 2012 through 2015.

The restitution amounted to only about 19 percent of what Mueller was alleged to have taken. The court and prosecutors take into account things like a person’s ability to pay, as well as the length of the prison sentence when determining restitution.

She spent the money on vacations, restaurant visits, massages, tanning sessions and at nail salons.

Mueller’s prison time was also much less than the maximum time she could have faced if she had been convicted on all charges. When Mueller was arraigned on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, she was charged with one count of theft exceeding $100,000 of government money, a Class X offense punishable by six to 30 years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, a Class 1 felony punishable by four to 15 years in prison; two counts of identity theft, a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison; and five counts of official misconduct and three counts of wire fraud, Class 3 felonies punishable by two to five years in prison.

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