Former Mayor of Ford Heights Charged With Embezzling Public Funds

August 23, 2018

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx announced today that the former mayor of south suburban Ford Heights has been charged with embezzling over $147,000 from the Village’s bank accounts while in office to pay for personal expenses.

Charles R. Griffin, 63, former mayor of Ford Heights, Illinois has been charged with the felony offenses of Theft and Official Misconduct following a joint investigation conducted by the State’s Attorney’s Office Public Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Cook County Sherriff’s Financial Crimes Unit.

According to prosecutors, Griffin was the mayor of Ford Heights from May 2009 to May 2017. Soon after Griffin left office, the Village discovered irregular activity in accounts at BMO Harris Bank under the Village’s name that did not appear to have been previously disclosed to the Village Trustees and or other Village officials. Griffin was a signatory on each of these accounts and the mailing address on two of the accounts was Griffin’s personal residence.

A review of one of the undisclosed accounts revealed that approximately $134,679 was deposited into this account during the relevant period. This account was funded primarily by transfers from the other two undisclosed accounts or by warrant (check) deposits from the Illinois Treasurer’s Office, which represented the Village’s local share of video gaming tax.

According to prosecutors, significant portions of the funds withdrawn from this account were used for Griffin’s personal expenses. These expenses include debit card transactions at numerous entities such as Walmart, Home Depot, Menards, L.A. Fitness, and various restaurants and other establishments. In total, Griffin used approximately $134,584.50 for his own personal expenses.

In addition, Griffin cashed checks totaling approximately $13,124.41 that were payable to the Village of Ford Heights at a currency exchange located in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Prosecutors allege that the funds Griffin obtained by cashing these checks was also for Griffin’s personal use.

According to prosecutors, a Certified Public Accounting firm conducted an audit of the Village’s financial records, beginning with the 2015 fiscal year and subsequent years. The accountants were not aware that the Village had any BMO Harris Bank accounts until after they concluded their audit of the 2017 fiscal year, which was after Griffin had left office.

“Theft by a person in a position of public trust is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, “said Foxx. “We would like to thank our law enforcement partners at the local and federal level for their work on this case, as we continue to root out corruption on behalf of Cook County residents who deserve honest government.”

Griffin was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in bond court today at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago where Griffin received a $10,000 I bond with Electronic Monitoring and the case was continued to September 13, 2018. 

A copy of the bond proffer can be viewed here.