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The sun sets Wednesday behind the Kankakee County Courthouse.


News
Simms starts serving federal prison sentence

A former Kankakee city official who pleaded guilty to stealing $2 million from the departments he headed began serving his federal prison sentence.

Richard Simms, 74, surrendered to Federal Bureau of Prison officials on Tuesday.

According to the BOP website, Simms will serve his nine-month sentence in the Morgantown, W. Va., federal minimum security correctional facility. Simms’ release date is Oct. 9.

The facility is 122 miles east of Marietta, Ohio, where Simms now lives.

Upon release, Simms must then serve two years house arrest followed by three years supervised release.

During Simms’ sentencing hearing last September, U.S. District Judge Colin S. Bruce said it came down to age and health as to how he determined Simms’ time in prison.

Simms is the former executive director of the region’s wastewater treatment plant and Kankakee’s Environmental Services Utilities department.

Simms also was ordered to repay the approximate $1,257,000 improperly paid from ESU and $768,000 from Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, the region’s wastewater treatment plant, from the timeframe of October 2014 to April 2018.

KRMA is responsible for treating wastewater from its member municipalities: Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais and Aroma Park. It also treats wastewater from Manteno and Chebanse by intergovernmental agreement. ESU is the Kankakee department that oversees Kankakee’s public works and sewer system.

Simms agreed to plead guilty last March after being indicted on the fraud charge in August 2020.

THE FRAUD

According to the court documents, Simms and his computer software development firm, Plum Flower International LTD, submitted payment invoices totaling $2,025,000.

Plum Flower is a company ran by Simms’ daughter, Anna.

Simms, however, never had approval from KRMA nor the ESU board of directors to spend this money for software development as the organizations never entered into contracts with him for this purpose.

During the five-year time frame in question, Simms received more than $2.5 million in salary and legitimate payments: approximately $1.1 million from KRMA and $1.6 from ESU.

Simms registered Plum Flower in March 2014 with the State of Illinois purportedly to develop a software application for medical companies to track medical records.

A federal investigation reported that although Simms did not have board approval or contracts with his engineering firm to develop software, he submitted fraudulent and inflated invoices to KRMA and ESU for software development. Simms was accused of circumventing KRMA’s invoice payment procedure by submitting invoices directly to its accounting firm. As a result of this practice, KRMA’s superintendent and administrative assistant did not approve or were unaware of the invoices.

Plum Flower used approximately $161,000 of the funds, federal documents showed, to pay another company to create a software application — called Eco App Pro — which they intended to sell on the open market. Most of the remaining funds were used for the personal benefit of Simms, according to court documents.


Local
County to provide animal control services for Aroma Park

Aroma Park animal control, just like the village’s police patrol, will be handled by the Kankakee County government after the two governmental bodies reached an agreement regarding animal control services.

The agreement was unanimously approved at Tuesday’s Kankakee County Board meeting.

The Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department will now provide animal control for Aroma Park for an annual fee of $1,000. The county also has similar agreements with Bourbonnais, Buckingham and Chebanse.

“This is our fourth one, hopefully, not the last,” county board Chairman Andy Wheeler said. “I think this is just the start of it.”

The cost for each community in an agreement for animal control is based on usage.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said they looked at the average cost Aroma Park incurred over the past 20 years and increased the amount by 25 percent.

“We feel like our call volume will increase,” said Downey of the 25 percent increase.

Wheeler said the agreements have to be in place in order to operate animal control within a municipality.

“You can’t just go in and pick up a running large animal without municipal agreements,” he said. “... A lot of people still think when dogs are running, that they could just call animal control. Animal control has to get permission from the municipalities. This agreement allows people to call directly to animal control under the stipulations in the contract.”

The agreement stipulates the county shall respond to calls and attempt to pick up dogs running at large, stray dogs, animal neglect, animal abuse, ordinance violations such as nuisance barking, odor and illegal activities (dog fighting) within the corporate limits of the village.

The hours the county will respond are from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

It will respond to emergencies on the weekends, holidays and after normal business hours.

The county will not respond to nuisance wildlife calls, except when the wildlife is inside someone’s living quarters or is sick or injured.

This excludes inside chimneys, attics, attached garages or crawl spaces.

Those calls should be referred to Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The county will take custody and impound the animals apprehended within the corporate limits of the Village of Aroma Park at the Kankakee County Animal Control facility at 1270 Stanford Drive in Kankakee.

“If you live in a municipality and you want this, talk to your city council, alderman, trustee or whatever else,” Wheeler said. “We’d love to help you out.”

In September, the Aroma Park Village Board voted to have the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department patrol its streets as a cost-cutting venture for the village taxpayers.

The sheriff’s department took over those duties on Nov. 1.


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