Crime

Lessie Bates House once helped his family. Now he’s guilty of embezzling from it.

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An AmeriCorps officials talks about the Meals on Wheels program in East St. Louis.
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An AmeriCorps officials talks about the Meals on Wheels program in East St. Louis.

A man whose family once benefited from the Lessie Bates Neighborhood House in East St. Louis pleaded guilty to charges he stole money from the agency.

Christopher K. Coleman, 42, of Troy faces a prison sentence and fines after admitting in the U.S. Federal Court Southern District of Illinois in Benton that he embezzled more than a quarter million dollars from the non-profit agency that receives federal funds.

Coleman will be sentenced Nov. 19.

“To steal funds from an organization that assists the impoverished is just like stealing directly from the poor and the neediest,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft.

The Neighborhood House is a faith-based organization whose mission is to help East St. Louis residents out of poverty.

Coleman became executive director of Lessie Bates Neighborhood House in July 2016. He told the Belleville News-Democrat at the time it was his dream job to head up the agency that once helped his family when he was a child.

Coleman faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to three years supervised release. He also will be required to pay restitution, which prosecutors said totals more than $270,000.

Coleman also admitted falsifying a federal tax return by failing to report the embezzled funds as income.

The case was investigated by the Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force, which consists of the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation and Illinois State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Smith prosecuted Coleman’s case.

Weinhoeft wants anyone who suspects public corruption is going on to report it to the Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force tip line at 618-589-7373.

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