A 47-year-old woman accused of stealing a diamond from a Rosemont jeweler is the latest employee of a prominent Chicago-based anti-violence program to get locked up in recent years, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Stacie L. Winston, an employee of CeaseFire —- an arm of Cure Violence -— was charged last month with stealing a diamond worth more than $10,000 from Helzberg Diamonds on Dec. 2, according to court records.
Winston, of the 3500 block of South Cottage Grove, is being held in the Cook County Jail on theft charges. A judge denied a request to reduce her $50,000 bond. Her next hearing is Oct. 7.
Winston’s criminal record includes four felony convictions since 1996. She’s been sentenced to a total of 18 1/2 years in prison for theft, forgery and robbery, records show.
Winston was a program services specialist for CeaseFire since 2011, according to a spokeswoman for the University of Illinois at Chicago, which runs the program.
Winston’s annual salary was about $32,000. She remains employed but isn’t getting paid while the charges are pending, according to the UIC spokeswoman, who didn’t comment on the case.
Earlier this year, a CeaseFire worker was charged with raping a teenage girl. Last year, a CeaseFire worker was charged with selling heroin to a federal informant outside CeaseFire headquarters at UIC. Since 2010, seven other CeaseFire workers have been sentenced after being convicted of felonies.
In the past, CeaseFire officials have said the string of arrests represents a fraction of the hundreds of people hired since the program started in 2000.
Tio Hardiman, former director of CeaseFire Illinois, praised Winston for being an effective employee. She visited shooting victims in hospitals to prevent retaliatory violence, Hardiman said. Many employees have criminal backgrounds, he said.
“CeaseFire was built on the backs of ex-offenders. Nine times out of 10, the people they meet with are offenders or ex-offenders who are more willing to listen to a person who has been in the same place. It’s unfortunate when these staff members relapse,” he said.
UIC decided not to renew Hardiman’s contract last year after he was charged with domestic battery, a case that was later dropped. He’s now the executive director of his own group, Violence Interrupters Inc.