Jury finds East St. Louis official guilty of felony forgery

June Hamilton-Dean, the East St. Louis community development and TIF director and former city councilman, was found guilty on one count each of forgery and public contractor misconduct in St. Clair County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Hamilton Dean, 56, was charged with “knowingly making a false document,” a false letter of employment for another person “with the intent to defraud.”

Jury selection was completed Monday. Testimony and arguments were Tuesday. The jury deliberated less than an hour before reaching a verdict.

Both counts are class 3 felonies that carry possible sentences of either 30 months probation or prison terms of two to five years. Hamilton-Dean may also be ordered to pay restitution of up to $25,000.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 17.

“I still maintain my innocence and have maintained my innocence from the beginning,” she said outside the courtroom following the verdict.

Hamilton-Dean was among seven metro-east public officials, which included her brother, Oliver Hamilton, who were arrested in December 2016 on corruption charges.

Oliver Hamilton was sentenced to five years in federal prison for wire fraud for making more than $230,000 in “questionable purchases” on a township-issued American Express card while he was East St. Louis Township supervisor. Among the purchases were trips to Las Vegas, supplies for his business, gasoline for his personal truck, car washes, and donations and gifts to friends.

The discovery of the credit card purchases were part of a BND investigation.

“This is politically motivated,” Hamilton-Dean said Tuesday. “They are punishing me for my brother. This is the classic example of voter intimidation, it’s classic harassment, and malicious prosecution motivated by corrupt individuals who use the justice system to settle the score.”

Two additional counts of loan fraud against Hamilton-Dean filed in 2017, relating to funds borrowed for a township youth program, were dropped.

In July, East St. Louis City Manager Brooke Smith hired Hamilton-Dean as the community development and TIF director without a vote of the City Council at a salary of $73,000 per year. The department has an annual budget of about $12 million.

East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III defended the hiring of Hamilton-Dean, citing her more than 30 years of work for the Defense Department, including as a lead financial analyst and acting branch chief. He said in July that he would monitor her legal issues and “if warranted, we will re-evaluate the position at that time.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story posted online indicated that Hamilton-Dean had been convicted of loan fraud charges related to money that was borrowed through East St. Louis Township for a youth employment program. Those charges were dropped.
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Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.
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