Village clerk charged with felony theft

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

BELKNAP, Ill. - A woman tasked with keeping tabs on taxpayer money is in jail, charged with stealing it.

Illinois State Police arrested 58-year-old Nancy Hester on Monday and charged her with felony theft.

Hester worked as a full-time clerk for the village of Belknap, Illinois, in Johnson County.

Belknap Mayor Janet Hester said the former clerk swiped roughly $26,000 in her almost three years on the job.

Though they have the same last name, the mayor and former clerk are not related.

Belknap, Illinois is a small community, just more than 140 people call the place home.

"When you're in a small village like that, you pretty much think you know everybody and trust people," said Janet Hester, Belknap Mayor.

Mayor Hester is one of them. She said she never anticipated village clerk Nancy Hester would steal from the community.

"It's a pretty hard hit for a village our size," said Janet Hester.

The mayor said she and other city officials noticed discrepancies in monthly reports in April of this year.

They ordered an internal audit, dating back to August of 2010, and found nearly $26,000 missing.

That missing money accounts for 60% of the village's general fund. The mayor said they'll now have to monitor future expenses closely.

"We're going to have to watch how we spend the money and hopefully let it build back up," she said.

We tried speaking with family members of Nancy Hester. A neighbor told Local 6 she rented a Vienna, Illinois home with her daughter. Nobody came to the door when we knocked.

"Hopefully we can get the money back," said Carl Higgins.

Longtime Belknap resident Carl Higgins hopes the village is made right, and the mayor does, too. She vows to follow the case through the courts.

"This is the taxpayers' money that they work hard for. I want to see justice done," she said.

Nancy Hester remains behind bars in Massac County.

She'll face a judge for a preliminary hearing on July 25th.

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