ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A former fire chief for two eastern Missouri departments is facing federal charges for allegedly taking nearly $600,000 from one of the districts.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis says 43-year-old Eric Hinson was indicted Wednesday on one count of mail fraud and five counts of tax evasion.
Hinson is the former chief in the Franklin County town of St. Clair and the St. Louis County town of Ladue. Authorities say the crimes occurred between 2006 and September 2011, and all crimes occurred during his time in St. Clair.
According to the indictment, Hinson used the District credit cards to pay for family vacations to Hawaii and Florida, to pay for limousine rentals, tickets to Six Flags, Big Surf Water Park, and other entertainment expenses, as well as to obtain significant cash advances.
Without the knowledge and authority of the District, Hinson directed that these personal credit card charges be paid with District funds. Further, on several occasions, Hinson wrote District checks to pay for his own personal expenses, including checks to Ford Credit for a pickup truck, to Macy’s for furniture, to John Deere Credit for tractor parts, and checks to Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank for other personal expenses.
The indictment states that in order to conceal his scheme Hinson accessed the District’s QuickBooks to alter reported general ledger activity by backdating certain of his fraudulent transactions and by changing the payee in order to manipulate the District’s accounting records so as to hide the existence of his fraudulent transactions. Through his fraudulent conduct, Hinson obtained approximately $593,236 from the St. Clair Fire Protection District.
Additionally, the indictment alleges that Hinson filed false tax returns for five years, 2006 through 2010, under reporting his taxes during those years in a combined amount of approximately $400,000.
Hinson’s attorney blames the problems on what he called an accounting matter.
If convicted, mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000; each count of tax evasion carries a maximum penalty of 5 years and a fine of up to $100,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
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