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Daily Journal
     August 24, 2021      #24-236 KDJ

Simms' sentencing hear delayed until

Daily Journal staff report

URBANA — The former executive director of the region’s wastewater treatment plant and Kankakee’s Environmental Services Utilities department, Richard Simms, had his sentencing hearing rescheduled for September.

Simms, formerly of Kankakee and currently a resident of Marietta, Ohio, will be sentenced at a 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20 hearing in U.S. District Court in Urbana.

According to online court records, Monday’s hearing was canceled due to a misunderstanding. No other information was available.

Simms agreed to plead guilty during his March 1 court date. Simms was indicted on the fraud charge in August 2020.

He is facing a federal prison sentence ranging from 30 to 37 months and to repay the approximate $1,257,000 paid from the ESU and $768,000 from Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, the region’s wastewater treatment plant, from the timeframe of October 2014 to April 2018. ESU is the Kankakee department that oversees Kankakee’s public works and sewer system.

Simms, 73, who retired from these positions in April 2018, also agreed to three years of supervised release in the plea deal.

The agreement and the pending sentencing will bring to a conclusion an extended investigation of a man who was highly respected within the community during his tenure.

According to the court document, Simms and his computer software development firm, Plum Flower International LTD, submitted payment invoices totaling $2,025,000.

Simms, however, never had approval from KRMA nor the ESU board of directors to spend this money for software development as the organizations never entered into contracts with him for this purpose.

KRMA is responsible for treating wastewater from its member municipalities: Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais and Aroma Park. It also treats wastewater from Manteno and Chebanse by intergovernmental agreement.

During the five-year time frame in question, Simms received more than $2.5 million in salary and legitimate payments: approximately $1.1 million from KRMA and $1.6 from ESU.

Simms registered Plum Flower in March 2014 with the State of Illinois purportedly to develop a software application for medical companies to track medical records.

A federal investigation reported that although Simms did not have board approval or contracts with his engineering firm to develop software, he submitted fraudulent and inflated invoices to KRMA and ESU for software development. Simms is accused of circumventing KRMA’s invoice payment procedure by submitting invoices directly to its accounting firm. As a result of this practice, KRMA’s superintendent and administrative assistant did not approve or were unaware of the invoices.

Plum Flower used approximately $161,000 of the funds, federal documents showed, to pay another company to create a software application — called Eco App Pro — which they intended to sell on the open market. Most of the remaining funds were used for the personal benefit of Simms, according to court documents.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

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