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Woman guilty of spending state grant money on personal items

The Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago. | Google Streetview image

A federal jury swiftly convicted a woman Thursday of fraud for spending state grant funds on shoes, cars and other personal expenses.

Jurors found Franshuan Myles guilty of mail and wire fraud after no more than 40 minutes of deliberations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Her trial began Monday and gained attention because the names of West Side politicians popped up during testimony. Myles is set to be sentenced Sept. 6.

Myles led Divine Praise Inc., which received $60,000 from the state in 2011 that should have been spent on summer jobs for participants of the Illinois Youth Recreation Corps program. She dumped the money into an account from which only $38,000 was spent on summer workers, according to an FBI forensic accountant who testified during the trial.

Myles used that same account to write a $4,932 check to Ald. Jason Ervin on Aug. 26, 2011. A $5,000 cash deposit was made to the account the same day.

Four days later, Myles made a $100 payment from that account to former state Sen. Annazette Collins’ campaign.

Marla Skinner, a staffer for state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, also took the stand to testify about an intern who worked in Lightford’s district office in 2011. Skinner said she sent time sheets for the intern to Myles with the understanding that Divine Praise would be funding the intern’s paychecks.

The feds have not accused Ervin, Collins or Lightford of criminal wrongdoing. However, they said Myles also used her Divine Praise bank account to make purchases at Home Depot, Designer Shoe Warehouse and T.J. Maxx. They also said she made $10,000 in cash withdrawals.