Crime

Former water district manager pleads guilty to wire fraud

The former water district manager has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in an investigation of misappropriation of funds at the Pontoon Beach Water District.

Brian Buske, 44, of Alton, was hired by the water district in 2007 and promoted to supervisor in 2014. As district supervisor, he handled daily operations and financial transactions, including bank deposits.

In mid-2016, the water district board chairman noticed that the district was a month behind in deposits. Eventually five deposits were found to be missing, which Buske has since refunded for a total of $5,323 in cash. The investigation also found that Buske had falsified records to cover up personal expenses on the district’s credit card, including payment of an electric bill, insurance and cell phone bill, totaling more than $10,000.

Buske was fired from the Pontoon Beach Water District in a unanimous vote following a closed-session meeting of the water district board. The Pontoon Beach Police Department soon turned its investigation over to the FBI.

Eventually Buske was charged in federal court with embezzlement and wire fraud. He has now pleaded guilty to wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, plus three years of supervised release as well as restitution for the embezzled funds.

A Belleville News-Democrat investigation found that among other charges, Buske had spent $500 at Kay Jewelers and $509 at Cabelas.com on the district’s credit card. Buske was one of two cardholders for the district and the only one responsible for purchases and deposits.

The Pontoon Beach Water District serves about 3,800 customers on an annual budget of $810,600, of which $450,000 is the cost of water purchases. The water district is not a part of Pontoon Beach village government.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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