Oak Park official busted for alleged counterfeit, embezzlement operation

- For the second time in a year, a clerk in the city of Oak Park is charged with embezzling taxpayer money.

The first time an Oak Park official stole from the city, the hustle ran for two years, but the second official accused of trying her luck wasn't lucky at all. Officials say they foiled her caper in less than 24 hours.

"We instituted a whole variety of layers and additions of security," said Erik Tungate, Oak Park city manager. "As a result of that, we just recently now  identified what I would define as a counterfeiting operation."

According to police, the culprit in this case is Shemikia Latoya-Renee Terry, a clerk in Oak Park's Treasury Department.

Tungate says Terry was hired just before Stephanie Sumner was caught chiseling taxpayers out of more than $400,000.  She funneled the dough to her husband, Michael, by sending real checks to phony companies. The felonious couple recently copped to embezzlement charges.

But Tungate says Terry was apparently not keeping up with current events because the city was, as a result, now keeping close tabs.

"The issue was caught the day after it happened. and we're dealing with it now," Tungate said.

Tungate says Terry was responsible for depositing cash that residents pay the city for all kinds of services.

"The water department, recreation, the library, you name it," he said.

That adds up to more dough than you might think, but officials found something odd about a recent Friday deposit that Terry allegedly prepared.

"They said, 'Wait a minute, 500 $50 (dollar  bills)?' come on now," Tungate said,

And there was something else odd about all those $50s - they looked like someone made them in a very unsophisticated counterfeiting operation like a copy machine.

Tungate says the funny money was detected shortly after it was stuffed into the city's deposit.

"Someone said, well, wait a minute, this bill doesn't seem right," Tungate said. "And as you go to verify those, you discover even more of them in that bag

"People do this stuff and they get into desperate situations and they do dumb things. This is really, in my opinion, a desperate person who did it (with) a giant sum of money in a one-time event. How could you possibly have thought you'd get away with that?"

FOX 2: "Of course they didn't?

"No, not only were we alerted by our armored car driver, we were also alerted by our staff," Tungate said. "And then as it got to the bank, as we were looking into it, then it was alerted there, too. So again, if you thought you could get away with it you've got three layers of review that occur after the fact - let alone what they do prior to.

"To any of these folks who want to do this, hopefully not here again, make a different decision, we'll find you, we'll catch you. Guarantee it."

Terry is charged with embezzlement and counterfeiting - both carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison. Terry was unable to be reached for comment and suspended with pay.
 

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