Former Zeigler, IL treasurer will be back in court for change of - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Former Zeigler, IL treasurer will be back in court for change of plea

Ryan Thorpe (Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS) Ryan Thorpe (Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
ZEIGLER, IL (KFVS) -

The former Treasurer for the city of Zeigler, Illinois who pleaded not guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and embezzlement appeared back in court on Feb. 15, 2018.

Four months after federal embezzlement charges are leveled against the former treasurer in Zeigler, it looked like he would face a judge and take responsibility for the crime.

But, a court hearing ended in disappointment.

Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell came to federal court hoping to hear Ryan Thorpe admit he stole $300,000 from the community.

I expected a plea," said Mitchell.

But, the former treasurer’s change of plea hearing got cut short, when Thorpe's attorney requested more time, this for the second time. The first was in December. 

Mitchell says the impact that missing money’s had on Zeigler only gets worse with time.

“It doesn’t stop, he said. "You still have a demand for police services, the water has to flow, the sewer has to flow, people have to be paid. You can cry about it but you still have to go on.”

The mayor said they’re also working to rebuild the trust of residents. “Well we are moving on, we will be stronger when we finish with this financially," he said.

Thorpe avoided cameras and with no comment, and returned home.  He’ll get another chance to change his plea March 1.

Thorpe’s jury trial, if necessary, is still set for March 12. 

A grand jury indicted Ryan Thorpe, 44, of Zeigler on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of embezzlement from a local government.

His pre-trial is scheduled for December 12 and his trial is scheduled for Dec. 26.

Thorpe was released on personal recognizance bond on Oct. 19, 2017 with the following conditions: to maintain employment, have no passport, have no firearm, have no credit card or credit charges - or get any new lines of credit, to report any contact with law enforcement, and have a completion of bond payment.

His attorney is John R. "Randy" Patchett.

Thorpe is accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from the city.

Despite the charges, Dennis Mitchell, the mayor of Ziegler, is still in disbelief. “Well I'm actually shocked that Ryan pleaded not guilty," said Mitchell. "It's still surreal. I just can’t, I can’t believe it."

There were hundreds of checks from the bank.

According to the Department of Justice, from 2013 to August of this year, Thorpe wrote checks to himself from the city of Ziegler. Investigators said Thorpe took the checks and "whited out" his name in the payee section of the checks, wrote in the names of vendors and suppliers that the city did business with, made copies of the altered checks, and placed those copies in the bank records kept by the city. Thorpe then allegedly shredded the "whited out" copies of the checks.

Thorpe concealed his theft further by submitting false monthly Treasurer's Reports to the Zeigler City Council, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

This is big news for a small, quiet city like Ziegler, but an even bigger strain for city workers. 

“We are just as angry due to the fact we are personally affected," said one worker. "Our dental insurance has been canceled and even our health insurance was almost canceled. We were threatened with garnishment of our paychecks for IMRF pension.”

But the mayor says the city has a backup plan.  

“Well we have insurance claim filed at this point," said the mayor. "I’m supposed to meet with Brad Cole on Saturday with the municipal league. He’s scheduled to deliver us a $100,000 check for our initial claim for our losses. That will help us catch up on some of our past due bills.”

The indictment also demands that Thorpe forfeit numerous items investigators believe he bought with embezzled funds. That includes two side-by-side Utility Task Vehicles, two motorcycles, a portable building, lots in the city of Zeigler, a utility trailer, numerous firearms, and a diamond ring.

The FBI conducted search warrants at the Zeigler City Hall and at Thorpe's house on Thursday, August 24. Agents also searched an office in city hall and interviewed staff members.

Mayor Dennis Mitchell said guns and vehicles were seized from Thorpe's home. Thorpe was also recently put on unpaid administrative leave, according to Mitchell. A city meeting was held on Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. It was open to the public for 40 minutes and then a closed meeting was held right after to discuss the FBI investigation.

Thorpe was fired after a city council meeting on Sept. 19.

According to Mitchell, all 2016 tax money has been accounted for. He said all checks were compared with bank statements and that he stands by the audit. The next audit is due October 2017.

Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of embezzlement from a local government carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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