Illinois State Worker Allegedly Stole $1.6M from Children Services to Gamble on Slots

Posted on: May 25, 2023, 08:19h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2023, 05:40h.

A former Illinois state employee has been charged for allegedly stealing at least $1.6M in funds meant for foster children’s daycare. She used much of the ill-gotten money to play slot machines at a local casino, federal prosecutors said in a recently released document.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) office, pictured above. A former employee there was charged with the theft of money which she allegedly spent at a casino. (Image: WICS)

Shauntelle Pridgeon, 54, of Chicago, a former planner at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), was charged with a criminal count of honest services fraud, according to documents made public this week.

Officials claim that Pridgeon made numerous trips to an unnamed casino and spent $3.7 million at slot machines between January 2015 and November 2022. She won $1.7 million gambling, but that was outbalanced by the $2.2 million she lost on the casino floor over the seven years, according to court records cited by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Pridgeon was released on her own recognizance by US Magistrate Judge Beth Jantz. She is scheduled to next appear in federal court on June 5. She has yet to enter a plea in the case.

Schemes and Bribes

Pridgeon funded her gambling through a scheme where 15 or more childcare providers allegedly made payments into a bank account that belonged to PRidgeon and her spouse, according to reports from USA Today. Those payments totaled $1.6 million.

As part of Pridgeon’s DCFS job, she approved daycare providers for children assigned to the state agency. These payments were described as “bribes.” Providers who paid Pridgeon were reportedly assigned lucrative childcare contracts, according to USA Today.

Under the scheme, providers would receive DCFS payments and then fork over half of that money to Pridgeon, according to the findings of an FBI agent.

“Most of these personal payments to Pridgeon were made by the providers at the same time that those providers were being paid for child care services by DCFS,” the Sun-Times further explained in a quote from court documents.

Missing Files

Last August, Pridgeon’s supervisor noticed several irregularities. In one instance, Pridgeon had approved a childcare provider who was paid about $280K but was not actually offering childcare services, the Sun-Times reported. The supervisor asked Pridgeon for records to help explain what happened, but Pridgeon claimed the files were missing.

The supervisor asked another employee to find the missing files. Pridgeon then rushed to a file room where she grabbed the records from the other worker, the Sun-Times reported. Pridgeonthen allegedly tossed the records into a trash bin from which they were later retrieved.

The supervisor called the Illinois Office of the Inspector General and the Illinois State Police to unravel the plot. By November, FBI agents began their investigation.