Managers of fireworks supply firm plead guilty to theft

PAXTON — The managers of a Central Illinois fireworks supplier have been sentenced to 18 months of court supervision after admitting that they accepted an $11,279 check from the city of Paxton for fireworks they knew they would not be able to provide.

Paxton’s acting police chief, Coy Cornett, informed the city council Tuesday night that the two managers for Halfton Pyrotechnics LLC, based in Lincoln, had each pleaded guilty to a charge of theft.

Ford County Circuit Court records show that the two Lincoln men — Darren C. Vinyard, 35, and Dale C. Farris, 37 — entered their respective pleas on Oct. 4. Each pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor theft charge, alleging they stole up to $500 from the city.

Vinyard and Farris were originally charged on Aug. 16 with two felonies — a Class 1 felony theft charge alleging they stole between $10,000 and $100,000, and a Class 3 felony charge of public contractor misconduct.

However, State’s Attorney Andrew Killian agreed to reduce the theft charge to a misdemeanor and dismiss the public contractor misconduct charge in return for them pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft.

Vinyard and Farris were each ordered by Judge Matt Fitton to pay $5,639 in restitution to the city, with $5,000 of that amount to be provided to the city through the bond each posted to be released from jail.

Each also was ordered to pay about $1,500 in court fines and costs.

In mid-July, Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold said he was having no success getting Halfton Pyrotechnics to refund the money the city paid for fireworks the firm never supplied for Paxton’s Fourth of July fireworks show. Ingold said a series of letters, emails and calls to the company resulted in no progress.

Halfton Pyrotechnics accepted the city’s funds even though it had already lost its license to sell and deliver fireworks in Illinois. Officials have estimated that more than 100 communities across the state got stiffed.

“I think they knew that they weren’t going to be able to supply us, yet they took our money,” Ingold said.

Ingold said in July that Halfton Pyrotechnics was in the second year of a three-year contract with the city, requiring the firm to supply Paxton with fireworks for its Independence Day fireworks show. But when the firm did not hold up its end of the deal this year, the city ended up having to scramble to find a new vendor just days before the holiday.

Ingold said the fireworks set off this year at Bixby Park were supplied by Jamaica Pyrotechnics of Fairmount, and he expects the city to continue its relationship with that firm moving forward.

The theft case was investigated by the Paxton Police Department.

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