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Former RAEDC director charged with fraud

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD — The former director of operations for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council was charged in federal court Thursday with one count of mail fraud and one count of tax fraud.

Leilani Hillis, 60, had been the subject of an investigation into the misuse of a company credit card federal prosecutors say she used to pay personal expenses of more than $600,000 from 2009 through April 2018.

According to the criminal complaint, Hillis concealed her crime by using the organization’s accounting codes to make it appear the purchases were for the organization’s benefit, and she forged the initials of the organization’s president on the expense reports. Hillis issued and signed checks from the organization’s account to the bank, knowing the payment included money to pay for the unauthorized purchases.

Hillis also did not report as income the money from the organization that she used to pay the organization’s credit card for her unauthorized personal purchases.

Hillis was an employee of the non-profit organization since 2001. She was fired in April.

As operations manger, Hillis handled the RAEDC’s payroll, human resources, accounting, and oversaw the annual audit.  She also had signatory authority on the organization’s bank account and access to the its PayPal account.

Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and tax fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of up to three years in prison.

Each charge also carries a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from that offense, whichever is greater, plus full restitution and a period of supervised release following imprisonment of up to five years.

Hillis is scheduled to appear for arraignment at 9:30 a.m., Dec. 19.

The Rockford Area Economic Development Council is a nonprofit that collaborates with businesses on the local, regional and national levels to help the local economy. It is funded by private and public dollars, including $150,000 per year from the City of Rockford and $100,000 from Winnebago County. R.

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