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UPDATE: Prosecutors gain guilty plea in arena theft case; restitution at $430K to Bloomington taxpayers

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BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) -- The City of Bloomington is set to receive around $430,000 after a guilty plea from John Butler, who was the head of a company that used to run the city-government-owned indoor sports arena in downtown Bloomington.

A statement from City Manager Tim Gleason calls the restitution "significant" and "ensures the taxpayers will receive a substantial financial recovery."

Since the tenure of arena management by John Butler ended, Gleason said the city government has put into place new oversight practices and procedures -- including hiring a contract administrator to oversee arena management and conducting monthly reviews of arena finances.

Representatives from the city finance department also participate in these monthly meetings, according to the release.

Butler must pay a total of $450,000 resititution for money prosecutors contend was stolen while Butler ran Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM) and BMI Concessions.

"In pleading a misdemeanor charge, I'm doing so not because I personally took money from the Coliseum, but I should have known that these indivduals were taking money from Coliseum and ultimately I owe the duty to the taxpayers and I dropped the ball," said Butler.

"John Butler is a convicted thief," McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp said in a prepared statement.

"He has acknowledged the State could prove he stole a significant amount of taxpayer assets and has already made restitution in the amount of $450,000," said Knapp.

In addition to Butler, there were four other arena staffers charged in the case. Two defendants made plea deals, but didn't have to pay resititution because prosecutors said they did not benefit financially from the fraud.

Co-defendant Bart Rodgers is scheduled to stand trial in October, while a judge dropped charges against a fifth defendant, Kelly Klein.

The state's attorney said his office retains the right to re-indict Klein.

Trisha Christakes

Howard Packowitz

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