Former mayor of Ford Heights charged with stealing from village

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FORD HEIGHTS (Sun-Times Media Wire) - A former mayor of south suburban Ford Heights has been charged with embezzling public funds, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Charles Griffin is accused of moving more than $147,000 of public funds into secret bank accounts when he mayor, the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement. He was charged with felony counts of theft and official misconduct.

Griffin, 63, was the village’s mayor from 2009 until 2017, when he was defeated for re-election by Annie Coulter, according to officials.

Soon after Griffin left office, the village discovered activity in several BMO Harris bank accounts held in the village’s name, but it did not appear that trustees had been informed of the accounts, according to the statement. Griffin was the signatory on the accounts and Griffin’s home address was listed as the mailing addresses on two of the accounts.

A review of one account found that more than $134,000 had been deposited. It primarily funded by transfers from two other undisclosed accounts and by checks for the village’s local share of the video gaming tax from the Illinois Treasurer’s Office, the statement said.

Griffin was accused of using more than $134,000 for his own person expenses, including purchases at Walmart, Home Depot, Menards and L.A. Fitness, the state’s attorney’s office said. Griffin also cashed more than $13,000 in checks payable to the village at a Chicago Heights Currency Exchange.

Griffin was taken into custody Wednesday and given a $10,000 I-bond and ordered to submit to electronic monitoring at a bail hearing Thursday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, the state’s attorney’s office said. His next court date was set for Sept. 13.

In the statement, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said: “Theft by a person in a position of public trust is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”