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Former East St. Louis Deputy Liquor Commissioner Indicted on Extortion Charges

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Former East St. Louis deputy liquor commissioner Walter D. Hill was indicted yesterday on federal extortion charges, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. Hill is accused of using his position with the city to extort money, liquor, and sex. He is also accused of lying to federal investigators.

A portion of the typically stellar reporting from the BND's Carolyn P. Smith:

The indictment charges Hill with soliciting and receiving money and property -- including cash, liquor and sexual favors -- from liquor license holders in East St. Louis. It also accuses Hill of lying during an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service about whether he had ever taken money from East St. Louis businesses and whether he had ever used another person to pick up money from businesses in East St. Louis.

Hill, some may recall, was a key player in the controversy over East St. Louis' all-night nightclubs earlier this year. Hill's office was one of those raided by the FBI when the agency visited East St. Louis city hall in March.

From Riverfront Times' feature story on that issue:

The search has yet to produce an arrest or indictment, but Parks' deputy liquor commissioner, Walter Hill, was placed on administrative leave shortly afterward. On April 19 the city council voted to eliminate Hill's position as part of a citywide spate of job cuts. 

Hill could not be reached for comment. Parks says the dismissal of his appointee, whose duties included "the total management of all liquor licenses in terms of fees," is unrelated to the investigation.

At a town hall meeting called by East St. Louis mayor Alvin Parks shortly after the FBI raids, one citizen accused Hill of walking into a club she worked at, pouring himself a drink and demanding a bribe. As reported then:

Then it was back to the mayoral skewering. One woman brought up the subject of Walter Hill, Parks' erstwhile deputy liquor commissioner.

"I been told by more than a few employees and club owners," she said, "that even your own assistant comes into the business, goes behind their bar, drinks from the bottle and then asks for some type of, um, 'economic facilitation' to get their liquor license. Mr. Mayor, are you monitoring your own staff?" 

After the hooting died down, Parks, clearly rattled, responded: "If you know of or you see evidence of public corruption or know of city employees unlawfully soliciting money or other unlawful activity, please contact the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office."

According to the BND, Hill faces significant fines and jail time if convicted on all charges:

Hill is charged in the four-count indictment with: 

* Making a false statement to the FBI and to the IRS punishable by up to five years in prison. 

* Conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

* Attempted extortion under color of official right, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

* Corruptly demanding money and property intending to be influenced in connection with the duties of deputy liquor commissioner of East St. Louis, a local government that receives federal funds, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Conviction on each count also carries a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release.

Check back on Daily RFT for more details and updates as the story develops.
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