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Articles Posted in Fraud

Rahul Shah became the first person in the Chicago area with the dubious distinction of defrauding the federal government for coronavirus relief funds. Shah applied for a $441,000 federal loan earmarked for small business relief during the coronavirus pandemic. 

When confronted concerning the suspicious forms used to apply for the loan, Shah said he had workers in India file the forms for him. Later, however, he reversed course and admitted that the loan was keeping his business afloat. Shah is charged with bank fraud and making false statements to a financial institution.

The Paycheck Protection Program

Yesse Yehuda, the politically-connected head of the FORUM non-profit, has been charged by federal authorities for misappropriating $200,000 in funds earmarked to develop south suburban properties and fund a workplace training program.

Yehuda has been charged with eight counts of bank fraud and seven counts of wire fraud

Where Did the Money Go? 

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former Chicago Public School Chief who pleaded guilty to corruption and fraud charges and was sent to federal prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia, has recently been moved to a new facility. The 70-year-old Byrd-Bennett was sent to a residential reentry management facility that oversees halfway houses in Cincinnati.

The Bureau of Prisons confirmed the move but otherwise declined comment on why the move occurred when it did. Camp Alderson had been nicknamed Camp Cupcake after Martha Stewart’s stay there several years ago. 

The Crime

oliver-spencer-7Zc4h74Va8c-unsplash-copy-200x300A Chicago pastor has been charged with fraud after bilking funds earmarked for needy children to purchase a Bentley. Federal authorities allege that Rev. Clarence Smith Jr. stole thousands of dollars from a federal program that helped feed children whose parents could not afford to feed them. Authorities say that Smith used the money to buy a $142,000 Bentley and for other expenses that had nothing to do with starving children. 

Smith’s ministry is geared toward those who had a history of criminal activity. The motto outside of his church reads: “Ministry meaningful to the imperfect man.” Smith was convicted a decade ago of using forged signatures to rob the estate of a dead man of over $100,000. 

Since his release from prison, Smith has had some financial struggles. In 2012, he filed for bankruptcy, claiming that he only had $20 to his name. He was still paying restitution for the theft for which he went to prison. Court records show that he owed the man’s estate an estimated $80,000. He also owed $8,000 in overdue property taxes for his church. 

aidan-bartos-313782-copy-300x200The Chicago City Colleges ex-vice-chancellor has been charged alongside seven others for multiple counts of wire fraud. According to federal authorities, Sharod Gordon awarded contracts to a number of companies that had ties to Gordon’s relatives and other associates. In some cases, police say, no work was ever performed. Gordon’s ex-wife and other associates were charged in the $350,000 scheme to defraud the government. Gordon is accused of awarding the contracts in exchange for kickbacks—a clear violation of basic ethics and corruption statutes

The current chancellor, Juan Salgado, said that new safeguards were to be put in place to avoid future problems. Salgado said the district will hire a procurement director to vet all contracts prior to them being offered. This includes requiring potential vendors to provide an economic disclosure statement and be in business for at least two years.

What was Gordon’s Role?

jay-wennington-N_Y88TWmGwA-unsplash-copy-300x200Attila Gyulai, the owner of a fine dining establishment in the West Loop, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Gyulai had returned to Chicago to face four counts of fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 25th of 2020. He and his wife owned and operated Embreya restaurant, a high-end Asian establishment. The restaurant opened in 2012 and received excellent reviews, but shut down only four years later. 

Examining the Plea Agreement

Gyulai’s plea agreement is interesting. Essentially, Gyulai admitted guilt to one allegation of wire fraud but also stated that he did not agree with all the details of the other allegations. The plea agreement essentially states that between 2014 and 2016, Gyulai defrauded minor shareholders in his restaurant and lied about how money generated by the restaurant was used. As part of the scheme, there was a nearly $15,000 money transfer out of the restaurant’s coffers.

2204277278_cbf43f4146_b-300x200Federal agents are accusing Illinois state representative, Luis Arroyo, of paying a $2,500/month in kickbacks to a state senator for his vote to support legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes that would benefit one of his lobbying clients. I know what you are thinking: That is illegal? Does that not happen every day in politics? Is that not how American politics works?

Yes and no. Suffice it to say, there is a correct way of going about it, but directly paying bribes to state senators is not it. 

Senator Not Named in Complaint

maarten-van-den-heuvel-KSQgzzn3dW0-unsplash-copy-300x200Chicago police have arrested and charged Alicia Newby who allegedly stole the identities of several people, purchased thousands of dollars of merchandise online, and had the merchandise mailed to dummy addresses. One of the people whose identities she stole was Taraji P. Henson, who is a star in the hit television series Empire. 

Alicia Newby is also the mother of six and has another child on the way. Newby is being represented by a court-appointed attorney. She is being charged with one count of continuing a financial crime enterprise. She has been released on $10,000 signature bail but is being monitored electronically and has been forbidden from contacting either victims of her alleged crimes or witnesses whom the prosecution intends to call.

Prosecutors Say Newby Managed to Hack Henson’s Email

robert-hickerson-38585-copy-200x300Yet another Chicago Alderman is headed to prison after being handed a one-year sentence for defrauding a personal charity. According to prosecutors, Willie Cochran used his charitable fund to pay for gambling trips, expensive meals, and accessories for his Mercedes. Cochran pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which ended his City Council position. 

Cochran’s lawyers hoped to secure probation for their client with six months of house arrest. Instead, Cochran will spend the next year behind bars. 

Since 1972, 30 Chicago Aldermen have been convicted of crimes and several more have been charged. Cochrane, who was charged by federal authorities, will spend the next year in federal prison along with several other Chicago Aldermen who were convicted in a federal sting aimed at uprooting corruption in the Chicago City Council. These include “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and William Beavers who were both convicted after leaving the City Council and most recently, Edward Burke who is accused of using his position to force prospective developers to use his tax law firm to secure building permits. Another Alderman, Carrie Austin, is under investigation for the suspicious purchase and construction of a Chicago home. 

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201While charges of fraud are not exactly rare when it comes to political candidates, Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno stands accused of filing a false police report to defraud his insurance company. This is generally not the kind of fraud charges that politicians face. Nonetheless, it is still illegal.

Authorities have charged Moreno with fraud and obstruction of justice after reporting his Audi A6 stolen. After Moreno had reported the car stolen, his girlfriend, Liliya Hrabar was pulled over by police while driving it. Hrabar herself was charged with criminal trespass. During the interrogation, Hrabar produced text messages indicating that Moreno had willingly lent her the car one day prior to filing the police report. The charges against Hrabar were subsequently dropped and Moreno was charged with filing a false police report, obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct, and insurance fraud.

According to police, Moreno attempted to file a $30,000 claim with his insurance company to replace the car. The police contacted the insurance company and found that he had given differing accounts of the theft. After Hrabar was caught, Moreno claimed that he had loaned the vehicle to her but could not get it back. Moreno then claimed that because she was a single mom, he just wanted to help her out and that the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions. For that reason, he reported it stolen.

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