Woman pleads guilty to robbing Illinois charity | national news

EAST STREET. LOUIS — A former official for the charity Call for Help Inc. pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing thousands of dollars from the group, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.

Kenesha Burlison, 40, of St. Louis, is scheduled to be sentenced May 26.

Burlison pleaded guilty to theft from an organization receiving federal funds and aggravated identity theft.

Court records show that she fraudulently obtained a cashier’s check from Call for Help for nearly $70,000 to put down a down payment on a house. She told the organization that she needed the check for the title company and could not get one from her bank because it was closed.

Burlison gave Call for Help a personal check for $70,000 in exchange for the cashier’s check. That check and others she provided in the coming months bounced due to insufficient funds, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

After her dismissal from Call for Help, where she started working in 2016 as a human relations manager, the organization “discovered that Burlison had also fraudulently submitted claims for reimbursement to which she was not entitled from of the organization that exceeded $100,000. These reimbursements were made to Burlison,” said a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft.

Court documents indicate that Burlison, as part of his mortgage application, submitted a fraudulent income verification with a false signature from Call for Help’s quality assurance director.

Call For Help is an East St. Louis-based charity that “helps people overcome a variety of personal crises, ranging from sexual assault and poverty to homelessness and mental health issues,” the statement said.

“The federal charges carrying a mandatory minimum prison sentence were appropriate here because the defendant stole so much money that would have provided needed services to vulnerable victims, including survivors of sexual assault and the homeless,” Weinhoeft said in the statement.

The theft charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Burlison also faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence for aggravated identity theft.

A federal district court judge will determine Burlison’s sentence after considering sentencing guidelines and other factors.

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