A 46-year-old accountant faces decades in a federal prison after admitting to defrauding an Illinois philanthropist and several other wealthy individuals out of at least $65 million. The Hinsdale resident pleaded guilty to one felony count of wire fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Jan. 10. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21. Preliminary guidelines call for a custodial sentence of between 20 and 25 years.
U.S. attorneys say the accountant forged signatures to take control of assets and then produced fraudulent financial documents that made it appear like he was earning money for his clients. He instead used the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included more than two dozen luxury homes in the United States and Mexico, several private jets and four yachts. Among his properties were three condominiums in Chicago’s Trump Tower. He is also said to have used at least $15 million of the stolen money to pay the expenses of a now-closed Burr Ridge luxury car dealership.
Most of the money was stolen from a banker and philanthropist who has a wing at the Art Institute of Chicago named after him. Other victims include a woman who entrusted the accountant with $500,000 from her deceased husband’s estate. In addition to the criminal case, the man is being sued in civil court by the philanthropist.
Federal cases involving white-collar felonies are usually resolved when defendants plead guilty as part of a negotiated plea agreement. Criminal defense attorneys with experience in this area may recommend accepting plea offers in these situations when the evidence against their clients includes financial records and other documents that speak for themselves. However, attorneys might suggest arguing the facts before a jury when prosecutors have less compelling evidence.