Former Burnham Village Clerk Sentenced to More Than a Year in Prison for Stealing from Revenue Payments and Cheating on Taxes
CHICAGO—The former longtime elected clerk for the Village of Burnham was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for stealing more than $650,000 from her office at the south suburb’s village hall and using most of the cash to gamble at casinos. The defendant, NANCY DOBROWSKI, pleaded guilty in May to one count each of wire fraud and filing a false federal income tax return, admitting that she stole at least $650,862, and failed to pay more than $200,000 in federal income taxes.
Dobrowski, 70, of Burnham, served as Burnham’s elected clerk from 1980 until she resigned on May 29, 2013, when FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at the clerk’s village hall office. As clerk, Dobrowski was responsible for managing Burnham’s finances and depositing cash and checks collected by the clerk’s office into the village’s bank accounts.
Dobrowski committed “nine years of pillage,” U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said, and ordered her to begin serving her sentence on Oct. 21. He also ordered Dobrowski to pay a total of $913,704 in restitution ― $709,501 to Burnham and $204,203 to the Internal Revenue Service ― but noted Dobrowski’s inability to pay such an amount. Before imposing the sentence in U.S. District Court, the judge heard statements from Burnham Mayor Robert Polk and a Burnham police sergeant, as well as a letter from the chief of the village’s volunteer fire department, about the debilitating financial effect that Dobrowksi’s theft had on public safety and village services. The amount she stole was enough to fund the police department for six months and leaves the small, working class village in debt, the mayor said.
Between at least 2004 and May 2013, Dobrowski took cash the village received as payment for fees and fines from the public. She then used most of the cash to gamble at casinos in Indiana and elsewhere either by taking cash to casinos or by depositing the money into her personal bank account and then withdrawing it from automated teller machines at casinos. She falsely represented the village’s finances to auditors and covered up her fraud scheme by causing false entries in village books.
As part of the fraud scheme, Dobrowski took cash from both the village cash register and the collection of money received as tow bonds. She recorded false amounts of tow bond money that had been received to make it appear that the village collected less cash than it had actually received, and sometimes she used tow bond money to balance the cash register.
To conceal her misappropriation of cash from the village cash register, Dobrowski waited a week to deposit cash into the village’s bank accounts instead of making daily deposits. By delaying deposits, Dobrowski could use funds received by the village in the later week to make up for funds she had taken during the prior week, making the deposit appear to match the revenues despite having taken cash from the register.
Dobrowski further concealed the scheme by failing to record checks received from the public as payment for village fees and services. She would place the unrecorded checks into the register to compensate for an equal amount of cash she had taken, making the register appear balanced. She provided false information to the village’s outside audit firm regarding the village’s revenues and regularly disposed of the cash register tape to conceal that the village’s revenues often did not match the deposits into village bank accounts.
Dobrowski also admitted filing a false federal income tax return for the years 2007-12, knowing that her total income was substantially greater than what she reported because she failed to report the cash she misappropriated from the village as income. Dobrowski agreed that she caused a total tax loss of $204,203 during those years.
The sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block.