Fire District Gets Money From Its Former Chief - The Missourian: Local News

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Fire District Gets Money From Its Former Chief

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Posted: Saturday, August 3, 2013 8:00 am

The St. Clair Fire Protection District received its full restitution check this week, meaning the district has been repaid in full by former chief and treasurer Eric Hinson.

Board of directors President Robin Jobe confirmed to The Missourian on Tuesday that “the St. Clair Fire District has received a check from the courts for the full amount owed to the district.”

Jobe said the money is being deposited into the district’s bank account.

The district received its money one week after Hinson turned himself in as scheduled on July 23 to begin serving his 35-month federal prison sentence. Hinson is being held in Marion, Ill., at a medium-security federal penitentiary.

The district’s board of directors would not provide further comment.

In June, after a couple of delays, the 43-year-old was sentenced to the 35-month term after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to one felony count of fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion. U.S. District Court Judge E. Richard Webber sentenced Hinson. Webber is the federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Hinson is scheduled to at least spend the first part of his sentence at the medium-security facility in Marion. The prison is located about 120 miles from St. Louis.

Besides being given the prison term, Hinson was ordered to pay $615,298 in restitution. Of that amount, $515,298 was paid to the fire district while the other $100,000 was returned to the bonding company.

It was the $515,298 that the St. Clair fire district received from the court on Tuesday.

However, on the day Hinson was sentenced, at that time he already had paid his full restitution to the court.

Hinson’s guilty plea in February 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.

During his sentencing hearing, Hinson read a prepared statement in which he admitted guilt and apologized to the district and community. St. Clair fire officials and The Missourian have tried to obtain copies of that statement, but have not received it.

Last September it was revealed that only 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 case was investigated by the St. Clair Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the St. Clair Fire Protection District. Assistant Attorney Hal Goldsmith handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to published reports, Goldsmith said in court filings that an “arrogant” Hinson treated the district’s coffers “as his own personal piggy bank.”

The St. Clair Fire Protection District primarily is funded by public funds.

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