A married southwest suburban couple called “con artists” by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan appeared in court Thursday on numerous fraud, theft and forgery charges.
Robert Brown, 78; and his wife, 66-year-old Constance Brown, are each charged withtheft over $100,000; theft by deception over $100,000; two counts of forgery; attempted theft over $1 million; and wire fraud, all felonies, according to a statement from Madigan’s office. Robert Brown also faces another count of theft over $100,000 and five counts of wire fraud; and Constance Brown faces theft by deception over $10,000, and two counts of securities fraud and wire fraud.
The Orland Park couple used Robert Brown’s purported business, Northern Gas and Electric, to carry out numerous schemes, according to the AG’s office. He repeatedly presented a one-page balance sheet for thecompany that falsely stated it held more than $4 million in assets, which duped people into thinking he could be trusted.
The Browns negotiated with an Oak Lawn homeowner, requesting the title of their home be held in Northern Gas and Electric’s name by producing the phony balance sheet, according to the statement. They insisted the homeowner allow them access to the house to begin moving in their belongings, and then refused to vacate. When they were forced to leave, they left extensive damage to the home and stole various appliances.
Another time, the Browns negotiated a lease for a banquet hall in DeKalb that was in need of extensive renovations, according to the statement. They scammed others for investment money under the guise of renovating the hall, but never paid rent and failed to pay outstanding electric and other bills.
Robert Brown also offered to work on commission for BKE Mechanical, an Orland Park business that purchases electricity at a bulk rate and resold it to small companies at a modest markup, according to the statement. After Brown produced a few contracts and was paid his commissions, the company contacted the purchasers and found out they never agreed to the contracts and their signatures were forged. BKE Mechanical’s owner also loaned Brown $25,000 for renovations at the DeKalb banquet hall, but Brown never repaid the loan.
“The Browns are serial con artists with a complete disregard for the law and the consequences of their actions,” Madigan said in the statement. “These charges will hold them accountable for criminal schemes that defrauded people across the state.”
In Cook County court Thursday, bond was set at $120,000 for each, according to the statement. They are next scheduled to appear in court March 3. If convicted, they could face more than 75 years in prison.