Senior Scammers Get 14 Year Prison Sentence
One of the scammers lived in Northbrook, where he romanced a woman to defraud her mother of savings, before the jilted woman killed herself, prosecutors said.
Update Nov. 14 at 11:15 a.m.
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting Elizabeth Kelleher was the Northbrook woman who committed suicide after John J. Sullivan defrauded her mother.
Kelleher “took her own life to be found by her sons,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Pope told the Sun-Times
Two brothers were each sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in federal prison after being convicted last year of engaging in a home-repair fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims on the city’s south and west sides, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
The defendants, John J. Sullivan, formerly of Northbrook, and his brother, Daniel J. Sullivan, of Niles, swindled more than 50 victims out of a total of almost $750,000 in equity in their homes. Prosecuters said the brothers would promise to perform expensive home repairs, convincing victims to refinance their homes to pay the costs, then later intentionally failed to perform or complete the projects.
"I wish they'd gotten more time," said Kevin Morrison, who identified himself as a former Chicago police sergeant victimized by the Sullivans. "The prosecutors sought the highest possible sentence of 20 years; the judge gave them 14."
Morrison had praise for prosecutors' work.
Millions in home repair, mortgage, investment fraud
In addition to an earlier home repair fraud scheme, at various times the defendants also engaged in investment fraud, mortgage fraud, and thefts by deception involving millions of dollars. Most victims were elderly, and most lived on the South and West Sides of Chicago.
U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo ordered John Sullivan, 50, whose last known residence was in Surprise, Ariz., after Northbrook, and Daniel Sullivan, 46, to pay restitution totaling $710,783 and to forfeit $748,601. They were convicted of wire fraud following a two-week trial in the fall of 2011.
“The defendants deliberately targeted elderly and/or minority homeowners... [and] caused untold financial ruin and inflicted significant emotional distress on their victims,” the government argued at sentencing.
Leaving ruin, tragedy, even suicide, in their wake
In one tragic example, an approximately 48-year-old Northbrook woman killed herself earlier this year after John Sullivan purported to have a romantic interest in her and then defrauded her mother of her entire savings — nearly $600,000.
Morrison, who attended the sentencing, said the children of the woman who committed suicide were present in court.
The sentences were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Thomas P. Brady, Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Barry McLaughlin, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General in Chicago.
A tangled web of businesses
According to the evidence at trial, the Sullivans owned and operated a series of home repair and home remodeling businesses: New Look Home Services, Inc.; J & D Home Services, Inc.; A-Z Home Services; and Contract Services (collectively J&D), which were located in Chicago and Niles.
In 2004, the City of Chicago obtained a permanent injunction against New Look Home Services and John Sullivan, prohibiting them from participating in any way in the home repair industry in the city.
Asked customers to refinance, hand over the money
Between 2002 and 2006, the defendants fraudulently convinced elderly homeowners to hire J&D to perform costly home repairs and to pay for them by refinancing their homes. They falsely claimed that J & D was licensed, bonded and insured, and advertised senior citizen discounts and free estimates. The Sullivans then persuaded their victims to turn over a substantial portion of the refinancing proceeds directly to J&D at the closing or shortly thereafter.
And they never performed the home repairs
The defendants then intentionally failed to complete the promised repairs, instead engaging in a series of stalling tactics to avoid doing any additional work on the homeowners’ properties.
In some instances, the defendants persuaded customers to sign blank contracts with J&D that did not specify the services to be performed, falsely telling customers that the blank contracts were needed in the event that the defendants needed to hire subcontractors and/or purchase additional supplies.
At times, the defendants and others later modified the blank contracts, changing the terms of the contracts against the victim customers, and drafting “completion certificates,” falsely representing that the homeowners were 100 percent satisfied with the work. The defendants typically did not leave a copy of the original contract with the customers, and, if a customer requested a copy of the contract, the defendants or others acting at their direction, later returned to the house and attempted to steal the customer’s copy of the contract.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Pope and Patrick Otlewski.