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Ex-cop charged with money laundering linked to Regal Theater rehab

Former Country Club Hills Police Chief ReginEvans  |  Sun-Times library

Former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans | Sun-Times library

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Updated: May 22, 2012 8:05AM

Regina Evans retired from the Chicago Police Department with a vision to resuscitate a grand old Chicago theater.

She would train kids, women and minorities to work there, they would learn trades and she would help them get GEDs, using a $1.25 million state grant in February 2009 for her nonprofit, We Are Our Brother’s Keeper.

The historic and endangered New Regal Theater, a landmark South Side stage graced by the likes of Nat “King” Cole, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder when it was called the Avalon, would rise again.

Only now, Evans, 49, is indicted on federal fraud charges.

Prosecutors said Friday in the federal courthouse in Springfield that the former Country Club Hills Police chief used almost half of the grant for the mortgage on the Regal building and payments to her friends, family, associates and for herself between February 2009 and June 2010.

The indictment alleged Evans used $275,000 of the grant to make payments on a delinquent mortgage she had for the Regal, which was facing foreclosure in Cook County Circuit Court at the time the job-training money was made available.

The indictment also accused her of diverting $135,000 of the grant to her personal bank account and using it “for cash withdrawals and personal and other expenses, including the repayment of additional indebtedness.”

Evans, who spent 22 years with the Chicago Police Department before retiring in 2007 as a lieutenant, channeled an additional $50,000 in grant funds to her “family members, friends and associates,” the indictment alleged.

It did not specify who allegedly received the money.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney James A. Lewis, the top federal prosecutor in Illinois’ central district, declined to comment on the indictment.

Within months of getting the grant, and already plagued with financial problems, Evans was hired as police chief in Country Club Hills, the first African-American woman to head a south suburban department.

Her husband would follow her, also hired by Mayor Dwight Welch, as inspector general to investigate complaints against the police department headed by his wife. They earned more than $200,000 together, courtesy of taxpayers in the city of 16,000.

But the theater faltered.

So did Evans’ other businesses, including another entertainment venue in Dolton and a limo company that subcontracted with Country Club Hills. And the theater building, 1641 E. 79th St., was sold at auction in September to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after going into foreclosure.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued We Are Our Brother’s Keeper in July 2011. Sun-Times Media and the SouthtownStar reported extensively that month about the Evans’ financial and legal troubles, including personal and corporate bankruptcy. The papers’ investigation also revealed problems with part-time police officers Evans hired using a federal grant.

In August, Ronald Evans’ job was eliminated, and Regina Evans went on medical leave. In October, she was fired as chief. In November, the Evanses’ bankruptcy case was closed. A U.S. trustee determined they had no assets.

Evans has pleaded not guilty to the charges ­— one count of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering — part of a sealed grand jury indictment made public Friday. She was released on a $10,000 bond.

Her lawyer, Larry Beaumont, said she did not misspend state dollars.

“I expect the evidence will show we used the money for exactly what we intended to use the money for, which was to create opportunities for disadvantaged youth in the community in connection with this theater,” he said.

“We certainly disagree with the allegations as set forth in the indictment. We think when all the evidence settles, the record will be clear,” Beaumont said.

Welch said: “I feel very sorry for her and her family. She did a good job for us while she was here and it’s unfortunate it happened. Does a criminal charge in America equate to being guilty? I’m not going to sit there and say anything negative about her. She did a good job while she was here and I wish her the best of luck.”

Contributing: Casey Toner

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