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Fair volunteer charged with embezzling $100,000+ from Perry County Agricultural Society

By Renee Trappe
updated: 7/21/2021 12:53 PM

The former volunteer treasurer of the Perry County Agricultural Society was indicted last week on charges he embezzled more than $100,000 in money and merchandise from the organization between June 2012 and October 2018.

Billy E. Harris, 47, was indicted Tuesday, J u l y on 10 counts of mail fraud in the Southern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court. He is expected to make his first appearance in federal court on Monday, July 19 in Benton, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Reona Daly.

According to the indictment, Harris "caused many of his personal bills and expenses to be paid with electronic debits to PCAS bank accounts" ... including his and his spouse's phone and internet bills, credit cards in the name of Harris and his spouse, his and his spouse's car insurance and online purchases using Amazon and Paypal.

The indictment also alleges that Harris opened a credit card in the name of the Perry County Fair and used the card to make personal purchases, while paying the bill for the card with PCAS funds. Harris also wrote personal checks payable to himself and personal checks payable to his spouse, that were drawn on PCAS bank accounts, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says that the Agricultural Society board requires two signatures on checks, and that Harris would "frequently" forge the signature of another PCAS Board member on checks made payable to himself and his spouse.

He provided false treasurer's reports to the PCAS board to conceal the funds he had taken, the indictment also alleges.

Some of the purchases the indictment says Harris made using PCAS funds include: a wifi router; a Handcrafted Himalayan Salt Lamp Crystal Air Purifier Decorative Light; "Star Wars" dog tags; Apple Airpods; a floating wall mounted shelf; clothes; bed linens; and a Swimline Floating Triple Tier Pool Fountain, among other purchases.

Harris, who according to the indictment once lived on Belle Avenue in Pinckneyville, could not be tracked down for comment Thursday by the Du Quoin Call. The indictment says he is currently living in St. Louis.

Harris was the treasurer of the Perry County Agricultural Society, a volunteer position, from 2011 to 2018. No officer of the Society could be found Thursday to discuss the impact of this indictment on the organization. The society runs all the festivals at the Perry County Fairgrounds in Pinckneyville, including the Perry County Fair.

If convicted, Harris faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count.

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