Leilani Hillis, 60, formerly of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, was charged in federal court Thursday with mail and tax fraud. Hillis, an 18-year veteran of the company, is suspected of siphoning off $600,000 over the course of 10 years.
Discrepancies in the company’s financial record were discovered by a routine audit. Hillis had overseen the auditing process, which allegedly allowed her to cover up her crimes.
Court documents allege that Hillis, in the role of Vice President of Operations, had access to the organization’s PayPal account and made more than $600,000 in purchases for her own personal benefit, using RAEDC’s accounting codes and forging the initials of the president on the expense reports.
It is also alleged that Hillis issued and signed checks from the RAEDC’s bank account for personal purchases.
Hillis faces up to 23 years in prison and a fine of up to restitution, if convicted.
“We are disheartened and disturbed by this discovery and are committed to doing everything in our power to maintain the trust and respect of our public and private investors, partners and community,” RAEDC’s CEO Nathan Bryan said in an earlier press release.
The City of Rockford contributes $150,000 dollars a year to RAEDC.