Monday, September 25, 2017

Former Belknap village clerk faces criminal charges from time in office

Nancy J. Hester, 58, former clerk for the Village of Belknap, was arrested Monday morning, July 8, on charges of theft of $10,000 -$100,000 from the village while she held office there.

Hester made her first appearance Monday afternoon in Johnson County Court in front of the honorable judge James Williamson.

Nancy Hester’s bond was set at $25,000.

Charges filed Monday by state’s attorney Tambra K. Cain, stem from an internal audit by the Village of Belknap take began in April of 2013.

Court records indicate that between August 1, 2010 and April 30, 2013, Nancy J. Hester “knowingly” stole monies in excess of $10,000 from the Village of Belknap. The charge is a Class 1 felony.

Village of Belknap officials reported the possible thefts to the Johnson County sheriff’s office in March 2013. Due to the nature of the case involving a Johnson County governmental body, Sheriff Elry Faulkner turned the investigation over to Illinois State Police.

If convicted, Hester faces imprisonment of four to 15 years with no less than two years mandatory supervision, formerly known as parole. Her preliminary hearing is set for July 24 at 9:00 a.m. in Johnson County Court in front of Judge Williamson.

VT05-Belknap-village-hall
Belknap’s Village Hall in downtown Belknap.

The small, secluded village of Belknap is located in the southwestern corner of Johnson County near the Johnson, Massac, and Pulaski counties’ lines. Belknap has an estimated population of less than 150 residents and only 75 registered voters.

During a Monday evening telephone interview with the Village of Belknap’s mayor, Janet R. Hester, The Vienna Times was told the total amount taken from the village is approximately $26,000.

According to mayor Janet Hester, she and the former village clerk, Nancy J. Hester, are not related.

The Belknap mayor said she and the village trustees discovered several discrepancies in the financial statements in March. Further investigations resulted in the unaccounted estimated total of $26,000.

“Twenty-six thousand dollars is a lot of money for our small community that is made up of mostly older people,” mayor Hester said. “This is our taxpayer’s money and it makes me sick to know that someone would steal it.”

The mayor said the village board has been working closely with the state police and the state’s attorney for several months and they have followed every step in the process to make sure they have done everything right.

Mayor Hester also stressed, “The community will survive. The loss of this revenue really hurts, but we will be ok. Hopefully we will get at least some of the money back.

“It makes me sick thinking about going through the rest of the process, to correct the community gossip and rumors, and to stand up for what is right for our local taxpayers,” the mayor added.

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