Former village clerk sentenced to three years in prison

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ill. - A Johnson County, Illinois judge sentenced Nancy Hester to three years in prison on Tuesday.

Hester is the former clerk and treasurer of the village of Belknap. She pleaded guilty to felony theft back in September.

Prosecutors said she stole more than $25,000 from the village of 133 people.

Nancy Hester visits with friends on Tuesday before walking into court. Once inside, she asked the judge for probation, but her wish wasn't granted.

"She held public office, and she is accountable to the public for the taxpayer money she stole," said Melissa Presser, special prosecutor.

Presser said the sentence is fair. An investigation revealed Nancy Hester wrote village checks to herself and put void on the stub. She also deposited property tax checks from the Johnson County Treasurer into her own account.

"We never thought this was an issue in our village," said Janet Hester, current village president.

Janet Hester said there's roughly $11,000 in the general fund after the theft. The village pulled $30,000 over from the water department in case of emergency.

She worries how long it will take for Belknap to get the stolen money back.

"It will take at least 15 years to build that back up. We have no revenue coming in. We have what we get from the state," she said.

Nancy Hester made a teary-eyed apology in open court. She said she was depressed over a divorce, had a gambling problem, and meant to pay the money back.

The judge gave Nancy Hester a few days to get her affairs in order before her prison sentence starts. She must be at the Johnson County Sheriff's Department on Friday morning at 9 a.m.

She will receive credit for the 100 days she's served since being arrested. Nancy Hester must also pay restitution.

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