Markham’s ex-public library director charged with embezzling more than $770,000 from cash-strapped town

The former head of the public library in south suburban Markham has been indicted on federal charges alleging he embezzled nearly $800,000 from the cash-strapped town over more than a decade and spent it on personal items such as tickets, auto repairs and home mortgage payments.

Xavier Menzies, 51, of Chicago Heights, was charged in an indictment made public Friday with four counts of wire fraud. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Monday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, court records show.

According to the charges, Menzies was executive director of the Markham Public Library and managed the library’s finances, employees and services. He also oversaw funds provided by the neighboring village of Posen, which paid Markham thousands of dollars every month for its residents to be able to access Markham’s library facilities, the indictment stated.

For more than a decade beginning in 2009, Menzies embezzled library funds, including money from Posen, and hid it in secret bank accounts he controlled, according to the indictment.

Menzies covered up the scheme by falsifying financial information presented to the library’s board of trustees, according to the indictment. He also “misappropriated checks” made out to the library by depositing them into side accounts without the board’s knowledge.

Also, in 2016, Menzies “increased his salary” without the board’s approval, the indictment alleged, though the amount of the increase was not stated.

Over the 10-year length of the scheme, Menzies stole at least $770,000, according to the indictment. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of that amount if Menzies is convicted.

In addition to his job in Markham, Menzies also was director of the public library in nearby Harvey. A woman who answered the phone there Friday said he recently left the facility, though his name still appears with the title of director on the library’s website. Calls to Harvey’s Village Hall were not immediately returned.

A Facebook page attributed to Menzies states he is also a pastor and runs a religious organization called the Christian Family Worship Center in Hammond. A recent post on the center’s profile stated, “Mic check. ... Just so you know, not every pastor is trying to get over and become rich off the church. Some just want to help people and families be better.”

Reached by phone Friday, Menzies’ attorney, Derrick Reese, declined to comment on the charges, saying he had just received a copy of the indictment and had not had a chance to investigate the allegations.

A spokesperson for Markham, Michael Taylor, told the Tribune that Menzies has not been employed by the village for nearly four years and that the library, at 16640 Kedzie Ave., is thriving under new leadership.

“We have a new director and there has been a complete overhaul of services,” Taylor said, adding the facility has been outfitted with new computers and other state-of-the-art features. “Our goal is to do things the right way.”

In addition to traditional library services, the facility’s website also touts a full calendar of community activities such a crochet club, bingo and family movie night.

The library district’s total 2022-2023 budget was just over $1 million, with the vast majority of revenue coming from a property tax levy on Markham residents, according to a copy of the budget posted online.

A small town of about 12,000, Markham has long been beset by financial woes and public corruption.

In 2021, former Markham Mayor David Webb Jr. was sentenced to two years in federal prison for taking nearly $300,000 in bribes, including from one developer who left coffee cups stuffed with cash in the mayor’s office.

The current mayor, Roger Agpawa, was elected three years ago despite being a felon convicted of mail fraud in a federal medical insurance case in 1999.

Taylor, however, noted the charges against Menzies predate Agpawa’s administration, which he characterized as transparent.

“We let the authorities, whether they are state or federal, do their job,” he said.