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By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    COLLINSVILLE — The city is nearing the end of the road on two projects that at times have seemed more like obstacle courses.
    In coming months, work will be done on both the Summit Avenue Bridge project and the Illinois Route 159 reconstruction, and that will be cause for celebration, city officials say.
    “If you show me a community that isn’t under construction, I’ll show you a community that isn’t achieving,” said Erika Kennett, director of economic development for the city. “Part of being under construction is a promise for the future of an area. When 159 is complete, the businesses along that corridor will have better access, and citizens will have better mobility to get through the community.”
p01 CCAAsphalt paving is done recently along Illinois Route 159 (Vandalia Street) in this scene taken by Collinsville cable and video production coordinator Mark Ahlvers, using a drone equipped with a camera. The large building at the upper left is the former Collinsville High School, now the Collinsville Christian Academy.    The rebuilding of 159 began with a feasibility study initiated by the city and completed in July 2004, the Illinois Department of Transportation, which oversaw the work, said. The work was badly needed. Traffic had long bottlenecked on that corridor.
    The groundbreaking ceremony for an overall, three-phase project took place Aug. 26, 2010, and was culmination of years of effort to line up funding.
    The highway has generally been widened and realigned, including through downtown Collinsville. In all, at least 22 properties had to be demolished — nine of those in the latest stretch, IDOT said.
    The construction was divided into three sections — South, Central and North.
    - Construction on the Central Section (through downtown, north of Church Street to north of East Johnson Street) was completed in the fall of 2011.
    - Building on the South Section (South Morrison to north of Church Street) was completed in summer of 2013.
    - The North Section (from north of East Johnson to Kinloch Avenue) is under way now and could be done as early as this fall.
    The last construction leg, which goes from near downtown to near the Beltline, has been an exercise in patience both for drivers and for businesses who lost some of their customer access.
    City Manager Scott Williams acknowledges the frustrations.
    “There was a lot of property acquisition in there. There were so many individual pieces of property, and it took forever to get them all ironed out,” he said.
    On the other hand the progress is notable.
    “It’s looking wonderful already. Traffic is going to move through there so much more efficiently,” said Williams, the former police chief of the community. The current leg was originally predicted to take 2.5 years but should be done in only two, he said.

By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    Last month an Alabama woman, Talashia Hinton, was charged with multiple felony violations for filing more than 3,000 fraudulent tax returns over a two-year period, scamming the IRS for more than $7.5 million in illegal tax refunds.
    This was not an isolated incident. The IRS estimates that it got zapped for $5.8 billion in illegitimate tax refunds last year alone. And the problem is just getting worse.
    “This year we probably more than doubled the number of identity theft cases we dealt with the year before and I think it’s going to be a continual problem until the IRS decides to fix it,” said Ken Diel, founder of Diel & Forguson LLC, certified public accountants.
    Mike Fitzgerald, a principal with the accounting firm of Scheffel Boyle, agreed.
    “Four years ago I think we had three cases in our office,” Fitzgerald said. “We had 40 identity theft problems this year and that was just in the Alton office.  We have 10 other offices.”
    Diel said that the problem stems from two things: the ubiquity of Social Security numbers and the gap between the opening day of tax filing and the deadline for employers to submit their W-2s.
    “It’s easy to get Social Security numbers,” Diel said, “and all the people need who are filing these returns is your name and Social Security number and they can file a return.  They make up everything else.”
    Fitzgerald said that the IRS begins accepting tax returns in early January but employers don’t need to submit copies of W-2s to the IRS until the end of February. That gives the tax cheats more than a month in which to perform their dirty work.
    “The identity thieves file in early January because it’s the first return filed that gets the refund,” Fitzgerald said. “They file as early as they possibly can with fictitious income and withholding numbers and they make up W-2s to go with it. As long as they have a good name and a good Social Security number, the IRS accepts it. Most of the time they have the refund sent straight to their bank account.”
    Most of the returns are somewhere between $7,000 and $12,000, he said.  
    “There seems to be a sweet spot. They’re all in that range. I think the guys who are doing this don’t want it too big so it’s not raising eyebrows but big enough to make it worth their while,” Fitzgerald said.
    By the time the real person files their actual tax return with the real W-2s, it gets rejected by the IRS, creating problems for the taxpayer, his accountant and the IRS.

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
p01 Suprtek    O’FALLON — A relatively small player in the software development industry is eyeing a huge piece of business in the skies as it fulfills a giant contract for Scott Air Force Base.
    The end result, which will play out over the next five years, could well determine the future direction of an IT company with a code-like moniker. The firm is SuprTEK, or more formally Superlative Technologies Inc.
    In November, SuprTEK won a contract to perform IT services for Air Mobility Command at Scott. For the next five years and for $12 million a year, multiple eight-person teams from the company will tackle software projects assigned by AMC.
    It’s the largest contract in the 19-year history of the company, which bills itself as a Small Disadvantaged Business, a self-certification that makes it eligible to compete for certain federal contracts.
    The company, which had limited presence in O’Fallon prior to winning the contract, now has a substantial one — leasing a 14,000-square-foot building on Pierce Boulevard, hiring dozens of team members and spending several hundred thousand dollars on computer equipment.
    “It feels a lot like a startup,” Technical Lead Jeff Peterson said of the enthusiasm in the building.
    Company executive Ron Howard said the firm was expecting to have around 70 employees in place in O’Fallon at the end of May.
    “We started from scratch,” he said. “If we execute, which we plan to, we expect to eventually maintain around 100 FTE.”
    Howard is assistant vice president of Solution Engineering and Development and oversees the division that is executing the Scott AFB contract. He came to SuprTEK as a result of the new contract, after engineering and software-development stints with McDonnell-Douglas, Edward Jones, Enterprise and NCI. SuprTEK called him last fall while he was laid off and made him its first local employee, working initially at Scott.
    Since then, SuprTEK has gotten three additional, smaller contracts at Scott and established the O’Fallon site.
    Landing the largest of the contracts was a coup because there was a lot of competition for it, Howard said.
    SuprTEK provides IT engineering and professional service to government and industry customers. According to its website, it specializes in strategic business planning and management; information security and assurance, IT solution engineering and delivery, IT operations management, health IT, service center operations and system integration services.

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    Simmons Hanly Conroy, a national asbestos and mass tort law firm headquartered in Alton, has announced that Shareholder Perry J. Browder has been appointed by his peers to serve as the 62nd president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
    Browder’s term officially began Friday, June 5, at ITLA’s annual convention in Chicago and will last a year.
    “I’m honored by the trust my Illinois colleagues have placed in me to serve as ITLA’s president,” Browder said. “My goal is to continue ITLA’s important work of being a voice for those who have been harmed or even killed because of the wrongdoing of others.”
Perry Browder MugPerry Browder    ITLA is the professional state organization for attorneys who work to ensure all citizens receive fair and equal treatment in the courtroom. Members of ITLA help victims of wrongdoing stand up to those who are acting irresponsibly or deceitfully in violation of the victim’s legal rights. This stance of holding wrongdoers accountable often pits ITLA members against the most powerful entities in the country including large corporations, insurance companies, health care providers and other interests.
    Over his nearly 30-year career, Browder has exemplified the mission of ITLA through his representation of hundreds of people diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. Browder’s legal work clearly established that his clients’ exposures to asbestos were caused by companies who knew the dangers of using the deadly toxin, but failed in their lawful duty to warn their employees and consumers. As a result, he has secured some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the history of asbestos litigation on behalf of his clients, the majority of whom have passed away from their exposures, and their families.
    “Anyone who is injured deserves their day in court to seek justice,” Browder said. “As ITLA president, it’s my goal to not only ensure my clients rights are enforced but all citizens in Illinois.”
    Browder has been a member of ITLA since 2002.  He has served on the ITLA Board of Managers for the last several years. In addition, he currently serves as the Third Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Bar Foundation and helps oversee its efforts to raise funds to help nonprofit legal aid organizations. He has been a past member of the planning committee for IBF’s annual black-tie fundraising event and, from 2010-2013, was one of the event chairmen.
    Browder has been included in the Best Lawyers in America list since 2013 and was named the Best Lawyers’ 2014-2015 St. Louis Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs “Lawyer of the Year.” He has also been named an Illinois Super Lawyer 2011 through 2015 and received a 5.0 AV ranking from Martindale-Hubbell.
    When he is not working, Browder enjoys spending time with his wife and their three teenagers. He credits his accomplishments to the support of his family and his faith.
    Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for individual plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving intellectual property infringement and business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Alton. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.