Diversion program ordered for school board member

Diversion program ordered for school board member

Official accused of theft must pay restitution, abide by probation to get case expunged

TUSCOLA — The prosecution of a Villa Grove school board member has been deferred for a year while he takes part in a diversion program, which includes paying more than $110,000 in restitution to his victims.

James L. Kestner, 49, who listed an address in rural Tuscola, was charged in Douglas County circuit court with felony theft over $10,000 and felony theft over $500.

In the first incident, Kestner was accused of obtaining more than $10,000 in cash by deception from two people between Oct. 3, 2011, and Sept. 11, 2012.

In the second incident, Kestner was accused of obtaining more than $500 in cash by deception from a different person on June 11, 2012.

According to court records, a warrant for Kestner's arrest was issued on Sept. 18, and Kestner was arrested on Sept. 25.

Douglas County States Attorney Kevin Nolan said that Circuit Judge Frank Lincoln approved allowing Kestner to take part in the state's offender initiative program.

Nolan said the program is a diversion option created by the state legislature.

The statute allows the court to place first-time felony offenders on a special probation that is not a conviction. As long as no conviction is entered, the offender should be eligible to have the record expunged.

According to the order issued by the judge, Kestner must pay restitution of $116,750 to the victims, must perform 30 hours of community service, must maintain gainful employment, must not commit any crime, must report to a probation officer each month, must refrain from possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapons and must pay other fees or fines.

According to Nolan, if Kestner does what the judge ordered him to do, within 12 months the case will be dismissed.

"If he fails, we set the matter for trial," Nolan said. "As he waived jury as part of the agreement with my office, it would be allotted for bench trial."

Nolan said no plea of guilty was entered in this case.

Last year, an Eastern Illinois University website listed Kestner as the chairman of the university's Department of Student Teaching and Clinical Experiences and an associate professor in the university's Department of Secondary Education and Foundations.

He also was the director of the university's web-based and alternative teacher certification programs.

When The News-Gazette tried to call his office number at EIU on Sunday, a message was received that the telephone number is no longer in service.

According to records in the Illinois Secretary of State's Securities Department, on April 22, 2013, Secretary of State Jesse White signed an order permanently prohibiting Kestner from offering or selling securities in Illinois.

According to the order, Kestner allegedly purported to be in the process of producing and distributing a documentary film, written and directed by him, called "These Kids Today."

Kestner allegedly provided a "film prospectus" to prospective investors in the film with the idea he would use money provided by the investors to produce and market the documentary.

In exchange for the investment, the investors were to receive their investment back, plus 20 percent interest in six months.

The order signed by White said that Kestner allegedly failed to register as a salesperson prior to the offer and sale of securities.

The order said Kestner is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 per violation, plus the costs of investigation and reasonable expenses.

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