Former St. Clair Fire Protection District Chief and board Treasurer Eric Hinson’s sentencing remains scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 13, in U.S. District Court E. Richard Webber’s courtroom in St. Louis.
The sentencing hearing has been delayed twice. It originally was scheduled for May 2, but first was moved to June 6 upon request of Hinson’s attorneys. Webber himself then delayed the date another week because of a scheduling conflict.
Webber is the federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
In February, Hinson pleaded guilty to one felony count of fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion. The 43-year-old appeared before Webber and entered his plea. It was then that his sentencing originally was set for May 2.
Hinson’s guilty plea came after his Jan. 9 indictment on fraud and multiple tax evasion charges involving his alleged misuse of about $593,236 of district funds between January 2006 and September 2011.
“Everyone involved is glad it is finally coming to a conclusion, and hopefully justice will prevail,” said St. Clair Fire Protection District Treasurer Dave Berkel, who has been involved with the investigation since day one. “I would like to make it very clear that this whole investigation has not been about the Hinson family but rather Eric who has placed them all in a very tough situation. The Hinson family has for years worked hard to make sure the St. Clair community had the very best emergency services possible, and I truly hope that this won’t tarnish that legacy.”
Last September it was revealed that only Eric Hinson was involved in the fire district investigation that was spearheaded by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation unit.
Additionally, Hinson filed false tax returns for the years 2006 through 2010, leaving total additional taxes due of $132,383, a press release stated.
The St. Clair Police Department also was involved in the initial investigation.
When he is sentenced, Hinson’s maximum prison time could be 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 for the fraud charge. Each count of tax evasion carries a maximum penalty of five years and a fine of up to $100,000.
In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case.
The St. Clair Fire Protection District primarily is funded by public funds, through real estate tax, personal property tax and sales tax.