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Former Ladue Fire Chief Indicted on Federal Fraud & Tax Charges

Family enjoyed a lavish life style at the expense of the tax payers in St. Clair, MO.

 

Information was provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office of Eastern Missouri. 

Eric Hinson, former Ladue fire chief was indicted on fraud and multiple tax evasion charges involving his alleged misuse of approximately $593,236 of St. Clair Fire Protection District funds between January 2006 and September 2011.  As a result of the federal investigation, Hinson resigned his positions as Chief at both the St. Clair Fire Protection District and the Ladue Fire Department. 

The St. Clair Fire Protection District (District) provides fire protection service for Franklin County, Missouri, and has four fire houses, 18 full-time fire fighters and between 25-50 volunteer fire fighters.  The District is primarily funded by public funds, through real estate tax, personal property tax and sales tax.  Eric Hinson began with the District as a volunteer firefighter during 1985, was elected to the Board of Directors for the District in 1997, and as Treasurer of the District in 1999.  During January, 2011, he became the Fire Chief for the District while continuing to perform his duties as Treasurer until his resignation from the District on September 28, 2011. 

As Treasurer, Hinson was responsible for preparing the annual budgets, facilitating the annual financial statement audit, gaining approval from the District's Board of Directors for expenditures, reconciling bank statements and performing other accounting related activities, in the QuickBooks general ledger system, other than for payroll.  He also had the ability to access the QuickBooks system remotely from outside the District offices.

According to the indictment, Hinson used the District credit cards to pay for family vacations to Hawaii and Florida, to pay for personal items such as sporting goods and other items, limousine rentals, tickets to Six Flags, Big Surf Water Park, and other entertainment expenses, restaurant meals, gasoline, and hotel rooms, 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, 43, St. Clair, MO, was indicted by a federal grand jury today on one felony count of mail fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion.

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.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

As is always the case,  charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt.  Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

James Baer January 09, 2013 at 10:32 PM
This is an incredible story. Speaking with Eric Hinson, which I did often, one would never believe this is the kind of guy who would steal thousands from the public. Never judge a book by its cover.
Cornet of Horse January 09, 2013 at 10:43 PM
Great. This is just another example why St. Louis County mini-municipalities should not have independent fire and police. To expect little-piker City of Ladue and its volunteer Mayor and Alderman to do necessary due diligence and then monitor for malfeasance is impossible. I wonder what our esteemed Chief looted Ladue for during his brief tenure. Let's forget about building multi-million firehouses and get out of the fire and police business. When is the public vote on all of this?
John H January 09, 2013 at 11:55 PM
As a local homeowner and tax payer, I feel safer with my municipality having its own fire and police departments. They know exactly where everything is and how it should be with out having to look up an address. Minutes save lives! I am sure people in Frontenac, Ladue, Clayton, Brentwood, and Richmond Heights (etc.) feel the same way. I find it discussing that anyone would elude to wrong doing on the part of the brave men and women that put their lives on the line each day to protect us. This story only draws attention because the accused was a former City of Ladue employee. Instead of writing nasty comments online, maybe one should come out from behind the internet vail of secrecy and run for office themselves? What an idea!
flyoverland January 10, 2013 at 03:15 PM
There was no mention, but I assume Ladue has done an audit and nothing is missing from its accounts.
Cornet of Horse January 10, 2013 at 03:24 PM
No doubt that many citizens of Ladue like the idea of having an independent fire and police. Many more don't even give the idea of change a thought. But when we are facing a multi-million dollar bond issue let's all consider whether it makes sense. It's kind of like the U.S. Navy building a fleet of battleships before WWII; for what mission? There are many brave and loyal public employees in the mini-municipalities of the County. And they are professionals. They know how to respond to problems, whether they work for a mini-municipality or a large district. Who buys a house in Ladue because we have our own police and fire? I trust police and fire to be professional and diligent no matter what uniform, facility or 'chief' they report to. Is this sad story time for Ladue to think regionally and prudently? And what else could Ladue do with the kind of money spent on firehouses and independent police and fire and huge associated overhead?

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