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updated: 7/7/2011 8:40 PM

Ex-Westmont official going to jail for embezzlement

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  • Lisa VanBogget

      Lisa VanBogget

 

Westmont's former finance director was sentenced to 120 days in jail Thursday for stealing more than $46,000 in village funds, some of which she spent on hair gel, model cars and a Japanese sword.

"People have a cynical attitude about government these days, and it's because of people like you," DuPage County Judge John Kinsella said as he imposed the sentence on 43-year-old Lisa VanBogget.

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Kinsella also ordered the Glen Ellyn woman to serve a maximum probation term of four years, pay a $5,000 fine, and make full restitution. In addition, she must serve 150 hours of community service.

VanBogget pleaded guilty in May to charges alleging she wrote six checks totaling about $45,000 to herself from village accounts, and racked up more than $1,200 in eBay purchases on a village credit card -- all while drawing a $102,000 salary, prosecutors said.

Assistant State's Attorney Helen Kapas said the thefts began in November 2007 -- just 17 months after VanBogget was hired -- and continued until bank representatives grew suspicious and alerted the village last August.

Once the thefts were uncovered, authorities said, VanBogget confessed she embezzled some of the money by taking blank payroll checks from a village office and writing them out to herself before stamping them with the mayor's signature.

On eBay, she used the village credit card to buy $122 in hair gel, a crystal figurine, collectible model Porsche cars, and a Japanese sword.

Prosecutors said VanBogget also drove luxury vehicles, such as an Audi and a BMW, and vacationed in Europe.

"This defendant was living quite the lifestyle of the rich and famous," Kapas said.

But defense attorney Timothy Martin argued the thefts took place while his client was depressed and motivated by a shopping compulsion that left her credit cards maxed out and her own finances in ruin.

She since has joined a Debtors Anonymous group and began working three jobs in hopes of repairing her life and making amends, he said.

In court Thursday, VanBogget told the judge she wants "more than anything to be able to make amends ... and right the wrongs I did."

"I have no excuses," she said.

Village Manager Ron Searl said the thefts happened at an already tumultuous time for the village, which was struggling to stave off layoffs by instituting worker furloughs and other cuts. He said government employees work hard to earn the public's trust, but it's difficult to counteract negative perceptions when officials abuse authority and power like VanBogget did.

"It's frankly been very embarrassing for the village, and I don't know that we can ever make amends for that," Searl said. "This is something I never imagined would happen in my career."

Police Chief Thomas Mulhearn said he believes the village "now has a black cloud hanging over it."

VanBogget, of the 21W400 block of Walnut Road, had no prior criminal history but could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

She's scheduled to report to the county jail Aug. 1.

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