Ex-O’fallon Official Gets 18-Month Term
She took $350,000 from city and lost it at casinos.
By: Valerie Schremp Hahn
(reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 18, 2005)
A former O’Fallon municipal court administrator who took nearly $350,000 from the city and lost most of it at the Ameristar casino in St. Charles was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison.
Kim Hawk, 41, was sentenced in federal court in St. Louis after pleading guilty in June of making a false statement about her taxable income. Investigators said the crime didn’t qualify for federal theft charges. The initial investigation was handled by the Missouri Highway Patrol to avoid any potential conflict with O’Fallon police who handle bond money.
O’Fallon Mayor Donna Morrow is pushing for state theft charges against Hawk. Morrow, who was elected in April, asked the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the case. Prosecutor Jack Banas said he received that report last week and is considering whether to file charges. Morrow said the city is hoping for restitution and could file a civil suit to try to recover the money.
Hawk will also have to pay $77,434 to the Internal Revenue Service, $5,000 of which she paid Monday. The $77,434 amount represents what she would have owed in taxes on the illicit $295,000 income she failed to report to the IRS in the five-year span of her federal crime.
At the sentencing, Hawk apologized before U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton. Hawk pointed out that she has attended therapy and Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
"I just want to spend the rest of my life paying back for what I did," Hawk said.
Hawk will turn herself in to prison in four to six weeks, a typical amount of time in these cases, said her attorney, Scott Rosenblum.
From 1996 to September 2003, Hawk failed to forward money paid to the court for bonds to the city’s bank account. Instead, she took the money for herself.
Rosenblum pointed out in a sentencing memo submitted to the judge that gambling addiction runs in Hawk’s family and that Hawk had gambled three to four nights a week since she was a teenager. She gambled until Sept. 17, 2003, when she learned of an impending state audit in her office. The following day, Hawk attempted to kill herself by swallowing 40 capsules of Sudafed, the memo said. The audit discovered that the money was missing. O’Fallon officials said they put in safeguards after the theft was discovered.
Hawk has participated in counseling since her suicide attempt and has become active in her church, Rosenblum’s sentencing memo said.
"She has decided to confront each and every demon that is responsible for her abhorrent conduct," Rosenblum told the judge in court.
Rosenblum also pointed out that Hawk’s fiance, a former O’Fallon police officer, lost his job over the case. Morrow, who attended the sentencing hearing, said outside the courtroom that the fiance, former mounted patrol officer Fred Sobotka, was given the option to resign in August. Morrow says the city has a rule that employees cannot live with a felon.
Rosenblum said after the hearing that he and Hawk were "relatively satisfied" with the outcome and that she expected to get prison time.
"She’s still wanting to get this part of her life behind her," he said.
Morrow said afterward that she was angry at Hawk and angry because no one had caught her for so long.
"It personally burns me," she said. "She was put in a position of trust with the city. The length of time that this went on with the city is appalling."
Hawk was also sentenced to one year of probation. During this time, she will have to let authorities review her tax returns and she must attend programs on financial responsibility and gambling addiction.