A former Aurora, Ill. union boss began serving a two-year prison term on May 29 after a Kane County (Ill.) Circuit Court judge denied his motion to withdraw a guilty plea made in connection with the embezzlements from the Aurora Firefighters Local 99 and its employee benefit fund. Judge Donald C. Hudson ordered that Patrick Stiles immediately be taken into custody to start serving the prison term that was agreed upon in the plea deal that led to his conviction for felony theft. Stiles’ attorney, Philip Collins III, said he was not sure whether Stiles would appeal the verdict, because Stiles could be on parole within a year. He also will be eligible for a work-release program, Collins said.
Last month, Collins filed a motion to withdraw Stiles’ guilty plea, arguing, among other things, that legal services provided to Stiles by his former attorney Fred Morelli Jr. were not adequate. After the hearing, Collins said he was not impugning Morelli but rather was arguing “that every once in a while you get one blown by you.” Morelli took the stand to answer questions about his work for Stiles. Hudson determined his representation was adequate, said Asst. State’s Atty. Joseph Cullen.
Stiles has been ordered to make $244,000 in restitution to the union and the Aurora Firefighters Relief Ass’n. Police previously testified that Stiles had embezzled $350,00 from the organizations, but the restitution was based on a $275,000 settlement in a related civil suit brought by the local and the Relief Ass’n. As part of that settlement, Stiles agreed to turn over about $64,000 in retirement funds. He resigned Jan. 15, 2001, after eleven years with the Aurora Fire Dep’t.
Hudson also rejected Collins’ argument that Stiles could prove that he essentially was being blamed for loose accounting practices by the union and could be found not guilty by a jury. Collins argued that union bosses were so worried about the results of an audit in Jan. 2000 and IRS punishment for their accounting practices that they blamed Stiles. “It would appear that the union did all it could to put this off on Pat Stiles,” Collins said. This was the first report of any IRS involvement in the case, which became public in early 2001.
But Gregory Frieders, Local 99’s president, said it was the independent audit that raised questions about Stiles’ management of the union account. “We never feared any trouble from the IRS,” he said. “If we did anything wrong and were fined or penalized, we’d pay it.” The union discovered through the audit that it owed the IRS, Frieders said. It reported its findings to the IRS and made a payment, and it also changed its accounting practices, he added. “It was a misappropriation of funds, and [Stiles] was spending money that was not his for personal use,” Frieders said. [Chi. Trib. 5/30/02]