News 3 Investigation: Documents show thousands in personal expen - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

News 3 Investigation: Documents show thousands in personal expenses on Zeigler city credit card

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ZEIGLER, Ill. -- New documents obtained by News 3 show tens of thousands of dollars in charges on a Zeigler city credit card, controlled by former treasurer Ryan Thorpe, which paid for lavish vacations, electronics, and other personal items.

Thorpe was sentenced to four years in federal prison in June after pleading guilty to stealing more than $320,000 from the city, but those new documents show the price tag of Thorpe's theft could be tens of thousands of dollars higher.

Credit card statements obtained by News 3, through a Freedom of Information Act request, show a city of Ziegler credit card racked up at least $20,000 in non-city expenses from 2013 to 2017, ranging from fast food meals to family vacations in Florida.

Multiple city officials confirm that card was in Thorpe’s possession.

“It makes me feel like government has failed our community,” said Jaime Moyers, who was appointed Ziegler finance commissioner in March.

Moyers went through hundreds of suspicious transactions with News 3. 

About 10 percent of the charges to the city credit card looked to be non-city business. One charge was for nearly $900 at the Carbondale Best Buy in December on 2016.

“Sounds like a Christmas gift, doesn’t it,” Moyers said.

Other charges include more than $250 at Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago, where steaks run from about $50 through $100.

Among the most egregious expenses: more than $1000 at a resort in Panama City Beach, Florida.

“That’s an illegitimate purchase,” Moyers said. 

Photos posted to Facebook show that Thorpe and his family, along with Zeigler street commissioner Jim Flood, vacationed in Panama City Beach at the time of the charges.

We reached out to Flood regarding the trip and he provided credit card documents showing he paid for his own room at the hotel.

Zeigler mayor Dennis Mitchell says the discovery of the new charges is frustrating for a city trying to move on from the theft.

He says a breakdown of checks and balances allowed Thorpe to stay under the radar.

Flood, who was finance commissioner while Thorpe was treasurer, says he didn’t know Thorpe was using a city credit card for personal purposes.

Flood added he didn’t look over credit card statements because he trusted the treasurer; something he regrets looking back.

The credit card statements also show more than $10,000 spent at Walmart over the four-year span.

One Walmart receipt found in Thorpe’s office following an FBI raid last August shows what seems to be a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a four pound ham, cranberry sauce and yams, all paid for on the city card.

The card was also charged for more than $400 worth of knives in Tennessee, $900 on hotels.com, and almost $500 dollars for RV Parts.

“We don’t have RVs here in Zeigler, so what was the RV part for?” Moyers asked.

Moyers says Zeigler has since canceled the credit card, though it still owes about $400 on the account.

Mayor Mitchell adds the city has opened an investigation and will be reaching out to businesses to obtain receipts and other information about the charges.

Zeigler city attorney Rebecca Whittington says following the investigation the city may push for further criminal or civil action against Thorpe.

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