Bail was set Friday at $500,000 for the former head of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, who appeared in court in Skokie to face charges that he stole close to $1 million from the agency.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said the allegations of corruption at the quasi-governmental agency were "where the average taxpayer feels it the most."
Prosecutors had sought $1 million bail, saying they consider Brooke Beal to be a flight risk and a danger to himself.
Beal must post 10 percent to be freed from custody. Beal must also forfeit his passport and any firearms, and he must wear an electronic monitoring device if freed.
"When he sees the strength of the case against him, that's when he becomes a flight risk," Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Nick Trutenko told Judge Larry Axelrood.
But Axelrood said Beal's behavior in the months after his resignation from the waste agency do not indicate any danger of disappearance.
"There was a point where the defendant was at the ultimate crisis," Axelrood said. "And it seems that point has passed."
Beal's attorney, Tom Breen, suggested the $500,000 bail, saying his client had returned from a property Beal owns in Michigan to turn himself in when notified of the charges. Breen further revealed that the prosecution of the case may be limited.
"He probably will be accepting full responsibility at some point," Breen told the judge during Friday's hearing. "There is some dispute to the amounts."
Beal was peppy throughout the 15-minute hearing, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he quickly answered questions from the judge.
Allegations against Beal came to light in October when an audit of the agency showed significant unauthorized spending from the agency's "personal development" fund. At the time, the amount missing was thought to be about $250,000, but it grew as investigators dug deeper.
Beal is accused of falsifying records of training and college advancement programs that he reimbursed himself for. He claimed he was attending college programs at Northwestern University, University of Chicago and Harvard. None of the schools had ever heard of him, Trutenko said. The bills for such training programs totaled close to $850,000 over six years, prosecutors said.
Waste agency Chairman George Van Dusen said Beal's alleged deceptions were so vast that he would often talk to the board about the classes and seminars he was taking. Van Dusen, who is also mayor of Skokie, said the agency has made changes to internal processes and controls to make sure something like this never happens again there. Van Dusen said a lawsuit will be filed next week seeking restitution from Beal for the missing money and the cost of the investigating the misdeeds.
"We are going after every single penny taken from our agency," Van Dusen said.
The missing funds did not require the agency, which provides solid waste transfer service for almost two dozen suburban communities, to increase fees or hike taxes, Van Dusen said.
Investigators also uncovered another $100,000 worth of bogus personal expenses Beal is accused of billing to the agency. Those included personal trips and a membership to the University Club of Chicago, a private, members-only social club.
Trutenko said Beal told his assistant he stole the money because he was "mad at his employers."
"He stated that when he started stealing the money from SWANCC, it was like a game to him at first and that he didn't even need it," Trutenko said. "He even started giving some of the money away to relatives."
An unnamed assistant was suspended and later resigned her position with the agency, officials said. Alvarez said the woman is cooperating with prosecutors, but the investigation remains open.
Alvarez said investigations of financial crimes usually take longer than the six months this took to bring charges. She praised Glenview police and waste agency officials for their help in the investigation.
Beal had held the $160,000-a-year top job since 1993. Court records show he was also being paid another $150,000 a year in consulting fees.
Bail: Lawsuit seeking full restitution to be filed next week