A former Vermilion County Board member was sentenced to two years in federal prison after using his position as an accountant for an area business to operate a check-kiting scheme.
Chris Leigh, 53, was sentenced in federal court in Urbana Dec. 3 after pleading guilty earlier this year.
The charge against Leigh stemmed from his work with the Ravens family, who operated multiple companies in the area, including Ravens Trucking, Rainbow Transportation and Birkey Farms.
According to the indictment, Leigh noticed in 2010 that two of the companies weren’t making enough money to keep all three afloat. Rainbow Trucking and Birkey Farms were supposed to make monthly payments to Ravens for fuel and services rendered, but, that year, the two companies were no longer able to stay current on payment to Ravens. To maintain appearances, Leigh began writing checks for all three bank accounts to “artificially and fraudulently inflate” the balances.
Court documents state that Leigh initially hoped that income would pick up and the false amounts could be reconciled, but that didn’t happen and the situation continued until June 2013 when the scheme was revealed when the banks noticed a pattern of large deposits that weren’t covered.
The family was contacted about the discrepancies and, shortly afterwards, Leigh met with the family and admitted admitted his misconduct.
Court documents point to the complexity of the investigation due to the multiple bank accounts that were involved at various banks, including Community Bank of Hoopeston, Iroquois Federal, Heartland Bank and Kentland Bank, as well as the length of time the scheme continued.
Leigh cooperated with investigators and helped ascertain the actual loss amount so it could be shared with the Ravens family, according to court documents. The amount lost was determined to be $1,349,788.73.
In a statement made before sentencing, Leigh said that he was trying to save the companies and wasn’t trying to benefit himself.
Despite an outpouring of support in the form of letters pleading for no or reduced jail time from family, friends and business owners utilized his services, Leigh was sentenced Leigh to 24 months in federal prison in Terre Haute. As part of his sentencing, Leigh is required to send 50 percent of his disposable income to the Ravens until the $1,349,788.73 million is paid in full.