URBANA — Former area school superintendent Daniel Brue has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison after stealing money from the Bement and Meridian school districts, and ordered to pay back $343,009.52.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce handed down the sentence Tuesday after Brue, 48, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud in March.

The sentence also includes three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison. The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years behind bars.

“School districts, especially those in rural areas, count on every penny to provide a quality education for their students,” said the FBI's Springfield division special agent in charge, Sean M. Cox.

“Over the span of eight years, Daniel Brue embezzled school funds, funds which could have been put toward valuable supplies for the students and staff. Mr. Brue deprived students, and the educators teaching them, from having all available resources to provide the best educational experience, and that can never be replaced.

"This sentence sends a clear message that the FBI will continue to dedicate our investigative resources to stop anyone who engages in fraudulent activity to deprive others.”

Federal investigators say the thefts occurred between 2011 and 2019. Brue, who now lives in Virginia, Ill., served as the school chief in Bement between 2009 and 2013, then in Meridian between 2013 and his resignation in the summer of 2019.

He created a dummy company — Ideal Consulting and Construction Services — that fraudulently invoiced the schools for work never performed. After the schools paid those bills, he deposited the checks into a personal account.

"Unfortunately, we lost a lot more than money," Bement School Board President Todd Scott said Tuesday after hearing about Brue's sentencing. "Even though the judge demanded that he make restitution ... even then we will not be made whole. I hope that someday he understands just how much damage he created."

Acting U.S. Attorney Douglas Quivey said Brue betrayed the public trust.

“School superintendents and other public servants serve as leaders and role models to students and the community at large,” Quivey said. “When they abuse the public trust, prosecution serves to restore the trust and reminds us all that public misconduct will not be tolerated.”

He was ordered to make restitution of $76,576.08 to the Bement school district and $266,433.44 to Meridian. That will come in the form of 50 percent of his disposable income after his release from prison.

Bruce noted Brue's scheme was not “simple” and involved efforts to conceal his theft, and acknowledged it could have long-term effects on the school systems he victimized.

He did allow Brue to remain free on bond prior to reporting to the Bureau of Prisons to serve his sentence.

According to federal court documents, a tip from a Meridian school employee in 2019 led to auditors alerting the FBI, which launched an investigation.

Brue also filed for bankruptcy in December 2019.

Agents from the FBI's Springfield office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. attorneys Rachel Ritzer and Melissa Moody represented the government in the prosecution.

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