Former Naperville bank worker guilty of accepting bribes
A former Naperville bank employee accused of falsifying documents to inflate the account balance of a preacher charged with running an investment scheme pleaded guilty Wednesday to commercial bribery.
DuPage County Judge John Kinsella sentenced 40-year-old Sallie Berry of Naperville to a month in jail and one year of probation for the misdemeanor charge. Berry also agreed to testify in the case of indicted Aurora preacher Howard Richmond, who is accused of defrauding investors under the guise of building a new church.
Berry sobbed and wiped away tears as she stood before the judge. Assistant State's Attorney William Wu said she accepted a $200 bribe in October 2006 in exchange for drafting a letter — purportedly from her former employer, Chase Bank — listing Richmond's available balance at $17 million.
The letter was just one of at least seven instances where Berry accepted bribes from Richmond, who lived in her neighborhood, prosecutors have said. More serious felony charges were dismissed as a result of her plea Wednesday.
"She made a mistake and this is one that will never be repeated," Berry's attorney, Lawrence Wolf Levin, said outside court. "She's a person of good moral character and she's taken the first step to put her life in order."
Berry agreed to testify in the Richmond case truthfully and consistent with statements she made to police when she was under investigation, Wu said.
Richmond is accused of persuading three men, including a member of his congregation at Life Ministries in Aurora, to invest in real estate that would be used for a new church. At least one of the victims claimed Richmond had documents indicating he had millions ready to put toward the project.
Richmond has pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, financial institution fraud, and continuing a financial crimes enterprise. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Berry, who no longer works for Chase Bank, will report to jail on Jan. 30, authorities said. She must serve at least 14 days before she's eligible for release.
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