CHICAGO (CBS) — Executives at a non-profit arts program in Uptown have been accused of stealing a large amount of federal tax money.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Patricia Murphy, 66, and Susan Field, 62, are alleged to have stolen $400,000 of the $1 million in federal tax funds awarded to the Beacon Street Gallery & Theatre, 4501 N. Clarendon Ave.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
Murphy is the founder and director of the gallery, Field a member of the board and a consultant.
They were charged in a seven-count federal indictment with mail fraud, wire fraud and theft of federal funds, a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The federal funds were supposed to be used for after-school art programs for children from low-income families. But the women instead took the money for themselves and used it to pay their own rents, credit card bills and auto payments, travel, and make household purchases, prosecutors alleged.
Murphy also filed false expense reports and other documentation about how the funds were spent, prosecutors alleged.
Of the $400,000 they allegedly took for themselves, Murphy and Field allegedly took about $250,000 by fraudulently giving themselves salaries and benefits for teaching students at three elementary schools in Chicago. But the women did not really teach any students.
“This indictment alleges that these defendants not only abused their positions of trust for personal gain but did so at the expense of young students who relied on those funds for needed academic enrichment activities. That is completely unacceptable,” Thomas Utz Jr., special agent in charge of the Dept. of Education’s Office of Inspector General’s Central Regional Office, said in the news release.
Murphy and Field were each charged with two counts of mail or wire fraud and three counts of stealing federal program funds. In total, they each face a maximum of 70 years in prison and a fine of $1.25 million.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.