BLOOMINGTON — A former McLean County deputy was taken from a courtroom Friday to the jail where he once worked and will wait for his transport to a state prison for a four-year sentence for stealing almost $200,000 from the union that represents deputies.
Jay Hobson, 38, pleaded guilty in October to taking the money from union coffers between Nov. 2, 2011, and July 28, 2014, while he served as treasurer.
Judge Michael Stroh was unconvinced that the defense request of probation with six months in jail was a suitable punishment for the deputy who admitted he has a gambling addiction. Stroh heard lengthy testimony from Hobson’s sponsor with Gamblers Anonymous who said Hobson has attended meetings regularly.
But Hobson’s November 2015 relapse that took him to a casino in Iowa — a violation of the terms of his bond — heavily influenced the judge. Hobson lost $10,000 so quickly during the outing that he attracted the attention of law enforcement, according to the state.
Stroh also was unimpressed with Hobson’s statement in which he asked for probation so he could remain home with his family and earn money for the restitution.
In his statement, Hobson acknowledged the damage his family has suffered. His actions also “ruined a job I admired since I was a child,” he said.
The crimes impacted others outside the family, said the judge, including the groups that went without donations to help families because of the theft.
Hobson breached the trust of co-workers, said Stroh, who ordered Hobson to pay back $164,172 to the police union. With only a part-time job as a janitor at his church, the task will take years, the judge noted.
“They gave you the checkbook. They trusted you,” said the judge. Hobson wrote more than 30 checks to himself and skirted efforts by the union to sort out discrepancies with the union’s books, Stroh observed.
Defense lawyer Steven Skelton argued that Hobson returned about $50,000 to the accounts before he was caught, a move he termed “too little too late.” Skelton said Hobson is “a wonderful man but he’s flawed.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Samantha Walley asked for a five-year prison term, saying a prison will give “restitution not only to the lodge but to the community.”
State’s Attorney Jason Chambers applauded the sentence.
“Judge Stroh recognized the gravity of (the theft) and the impact it had on our community by taking food and assistance away from the lower income in our county who are in need,” said Chambers.
Sheriff Jon Sandage said he is pleased the Hobson case “that gave the department a black eye is behind us.”
Union president Ryan Homan said “we are thankful the community is still donating to our fundraisers so we can get back on schedule helping others.”
Hobson’s wife and others in the crowd of more than 30 supporters cried after the decision.
Hobson resigned in August 2014 after the money was reported missing.