8 years in prison for former COD radio station employee

A former College of DuPage radio station employee accused of defrauding the school of more than $443,000 is headed to prison.

DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan sentenced former WDCB radio station engineer John Valenta, 68, of Wheaton to eight years in prison Friday after a daylong sentencing hearing.

Valenta pleaded guilty in February to theft by deception of more than $100,000 from a school. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to cap their sentencing recommendation at 10 years in prison.

He was charged in February 2015 with multiple counts of theft and forgery related to his tenure as a part-time engineer at WDCB 90.9-FM.

Assistant State's Attorney Ken Tatarelis said that while working at the radio station from 1999 to 2014, Valenta billed the college for $443,024 from his private company, Broadcast Technologies, including invoices for parts that were never used and labor that was never performed. More than $303,000 in invoices were charged from 2008 through 2014.

Tatarelis said Valenta told police in January 2014 that he submitted false invoices because he felt he should have been employed full time at the station. He also said he needed money to support his six children, including one with special needs.

"The defendant was a well-paid employee of the College of DuPage, yet he wanted more," Tatarelis said. "He felt entitled to more."

College of DuPage police Lt. Kent Munsterman testified during the sentencing hearing that Valenta estimated only about 10 percent of the invoices he billed to the college were legitimate.

Station Manager Daniel Bindert said he quickly caught on to Valenta's scheme after being hired in 2013 to oversee the station. He likened Valenta's repeated invoices to a hit song that you hear over and over. Occasionally, he said, a serial number or part name would change, but he noticed a pattern.

"It became pretty obvious that invoices from Broadcast Technologies were not to be believed," he said. "They weren't legitimate."

Bindert said news of Valenta's arrest and allegations caused "a huge problem" for the station, which relies on donors from 35 states and 10 countries.

Donations dried up, he said, because people didn't want their money "wasted."

At the time of his arrest, Valenta was on probation for a 2011 conviction for submitting $11,000 in fake invoices to Elmhurst College for services at that school's radio station.

Valenta apologized for the thefts and said he knew his actions "placed an unthinkable blight on the College of DuPage." He said he tried to better himself by attending therapy sessions.

Valenta must serve half the sentence before being eligible for parole. He receives credit for two days spent in custody after his arrest. Valenta was also ordered to repay $399,000 in restitution to the college.

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