St. Louis Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft from Metro East Charity, Identity Theft

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East St. Louis, Ill – Kenesha Burlison, 40, of St. Louis, Missouri, pled guilty on Thursday, 
February 10, 2022, to a two-count felony information charging her with theft from an organization 
receiving federal funds and aggravated identity theft.
Burlison served as the Director of Human Relations for Call for Help, Inc., beginning in 2016. Call 
for Help is a longstanding charitable organization in East St. Louis, Illinois, that helps people 
overcome a variety of personal crises, ranging from sexual assault and poverty to homelessness and 
mental health issues. The organization receives federal funds annually to assist in carrying out 
its mission.

“Federal charges, carrying a mandatory minimum prison sentence, were appropriate here because the 
Defendant  stole  so  much  money  that  would  have  provided  needed  services  to  vulnerable  
victims, including sexual assault survivors and the homeless,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. 
Weinhoeft.

“An organization dedicated to assisting victims of trauma and families in crisis holds high 
expectations for honesty and integrity from its director,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David 
Nanz.   “Kenesha Burlison demonstrated bold disregard for her co-workers and the people who depend 
on Call for Help to  survive.  The  FBI  is  dedicated  to  investigating  those,  like  Burlison,  
who  choose  to  deceive  and defraud others while stealing taxpayer dollars.”

According to court documents, Burlison fraudulently obtained a cashier’s check from Call for Help 
in the amount of $69,788.62, which she used to pay the down payment for a home she was purchasing. 
Burlison told Call for Help that she needed a  cashier’s check to provide  to the title company and 
claimed that she couldn’t get one from her bank because it was closed. In exchange for the 
cashier’s check, Burlison provided Call for Help with a personal check in the amount of $70,000. 
That check, as well as two others provided by Burlison in the coming months, bounced for 
insufficient funds.

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Following  her  termination  from  the  organization,  Call  for  Help  discovered  that  Burlison  
had  also fraudulently submitted requests for reimbursements that she was not entitled to from the 
organization that exceeded $100,000. These reimbursements were paid to Burlison.

In addition to the charge relating to her theft from Call for Help, Burlison also pled guilty to 
aggravated identity theft. Court documents alleged that, in connection with her mortgage 
application, Burlison submitted a fraudulent income verification with a forged signature of the 
Director of Quality Assurance
at Call for Help.

Theft from an organization receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison 
and a fine of up to $250,000. Burlison faces a mandatory sentence of two years’ imprisonment for 
aggravated identity theft, which must run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the fraud count. 
In addition, Burlison could also be ordered to pay restitution to her victims.

Burlison is scheduled to be sentenced on May 26, 2022. A federal district court judge will 
determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory 
factors.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Springfield Division.
Assistant United States Attorney Zoe J. Gross is prosecuting the case.

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