Richard Simms

Richard Simms

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.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

Reporter

Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.