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Trial Delayed In Arena Fraud Case

Bart and Stephanie
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Former arena official Bart Rogers with his attorney, Stephanie Wong.

The jury trial was delayed Tuesday for the former general manager of the city-owned arena accused along with four others in what was billed as a massive fraud scheme.

Bart Rogers is the final defendant of the management team left to resolve felony theft charges. A new trial date has not been set.

Rogers was indicted in September 2017 on charges accusing him of theft over $10,000 of government funds. His co-defendants included John Y. Butler, owner of Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM); concessions general manager Paul Grazar; concessions finance chief Jay Laesch; and assistant general manager for finance Kelly Klein.  

Laesch and Grazar pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation. Charges were dismissed against Klein.

Starting in 2006, Butler and his team handled operations of what is now known as Grossinger Motors Arena. The city and Butler did not renew their contract in 2016.  

Butler’s trial ended abruptly in August after the state and defense reached a plea deal in which Butler would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and agree to pay $430,000 restitution. He was placed on 90 days home confinement. Butler’s concessions firm, BMI, pleaded guilty to a single felony count.

The state and defense both claimed victory after Butler’s plea.

The state expressed satisfaction with the hefty amount of money secured for city coffers and the fact that Butler accepted a level of responsibility for the losses. The defense was pleased Butler avoided a possible conviction on charges that carried the possibility of decades in prison, and instead walked away without a felony record.

Butler contends his culpability was limited to his lack of supervision over employees who took the money. 

The lack of a trial in any of the cases that followed more than a year of investigation by the Illinois State Police also keeps all former and current city employees off the witness stand where they likely faced heavy scrutiny for their lax oversight of arena finances.

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