Attorney: Former Boy Scout executive "not guilty" of misusing funds
The former top official with the Boy Scouts of America's Northeast Illinois Council is denying allegations he misused charitable funds, his attorney said Friday.
Attorney Henry B. Samuels said after a brief court hearing that George D. Nelson, 51, of Deer Park will plead not guilty during his Oct. 12 arraignment hearing in front of Judge James Booras.
"Mr. Nelson respectfully welcomes his day in court," Samuels said outside the courtroom.
Nelson was indicted Aug. 29 on counts of illegal use of funds for personal use, wire fraud, and forgery, court documents show. If found guilty at trial, he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. The charges are also probationable.
According to the indictment, Nelson knowingly disbursed charitable funds in excess of $1,000 for his own personal benefit during a three-year period. He also created false documents to verify funds on a home loan and devised a scheme to transfer funds from the Northeast Illinois Council to the Miami Valley Council of the Boy Scouts for the purchase of a personal vehicle, the indictment states.
The charges came from his time serving as executive and CEO for the Northeast Illinois Council when the facility was headquartered in Highland Park. It since has moved to Vernon Hills.
The council oversees Scouting in northern Cook and Lake counties.
The case was charged in Lake County but is being handled by Illinois Appellate Court prosecutor Bernie Murray. Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim had to pass the case because he sits on the Northeast Illinois Council board.
Highland Park police said in a news release the Boy Scouts brought the case to their attention after an internal audit. They said the amount of money in question is approximately $25,000.
Nelson was arrested by Highland Park police on Aug. 30 and was released from custody after he posted the required 10 percent of his $50,000 bail, officials said.
Greg Lawless, board president for the Northeast Illinois Council, said members were disappointed by the theft.
"These actions do not represent our employees, volunteers and parents who work tirelessly to accomplish our mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes," Lawless said in an emailed statement. "Our control processes identified the issue, and we took quick action to remove this individual and prohibit him from any future participation in scouting. As a follow up, the council has implemented additional internal controls that will help prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future."