Beardstown City Employee Placed on Administrative Leave Arrested

By Benjamin Cox on May 2, 2023 at 1:42pm

A Beardstown City Hall employee placed on administrative leave after being placed under investigation by the Illinois State Police has been arrested.

41 year old Melissa J. Espinoza of the 1400 block of Jackson Street in Beardstown was booked into the Morgan County Jail at 2:43 in the afternoon yesterday on a Cass County warrant for theft and official misconduct.

Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller says he filed a 3-count information yesterday after receiving investigation materials from the Illinois State Police on Espinoza’s alleged conduct: “One charge is theft of government property between $500-$10,000. The other is simple theft between $500-$10,000. The third count is basically charging her for official misconduct of allegedly causing those thefts or performing those thefts while she was an employee or in a city official capacity. The alleged incidents occurred between April 2020 and January of this year. Ms. Espinoza was the City of Beardstown’s water/utility clerk and those alleged thefts occurred over that period of time while she was working in that capacity.”

Espinoza had been an employee of the City of Beardstown for the past 6 years. Miller says that the information alleges that money was taken through the mishandling of the municipality’s utility accounts.

Espinoza was placed on administrative leave after an Illinois State Police investigation was revealed back in February in a report by the Cass County Star Gazette.

Espinoza posted $10,000 bond and has since been released from the Morgan County Jail awaiting a first appearance in Cass County Circuit Court.

The theft of government property charge is a Class 2 felony, while the theft and official misconduct charges are both classified as Class 3 felonies. If convicted of the charges, Espinoza could face a possibility of 2 to 7 years in prison along with fines. There are possibilities of probation under all three offenses.