Chicago not-for-profit leader charged with misusing $200,000 in state grant money

The indictment against Yesse Yehudah, 71, is among the first to be filed in Chicago’s federal court in nearly two months, since the coronavirus pandemic took hold here.

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A sign for the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Sun-Times file

The leader of a Chicago not-for-profit has been hit with a 15-count federal indictment alleging he misused at least $200,000 in grant money from the state of Illinois. 

The indictment against Yesse Yehudah, 71, is among the first to be filed in Chicago’s federal court in nearly two months, since the coronavirus pandemic took hold here. In addition to Yehudah’s, indictments have been filed this week in drug and immigration cases.

Yehuda could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The case against Yehudah involves the not-for-profit he ran known as Fulfilling Our Responsibilities Unto Mankind, or FORUM. The feds say between 2013 and 2016 Yehudah landed three grants totaling $575,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Two were meant to develop commercial properties in Dolton, and the third was intended for a weatherization jobs training program. 

The indictment alleges Yehudah submitted bogus documents and lied to the state, at one point claiming FORUM had spent nearly all of a $100,000 grant on construction work when no actual construction had even begun.

Yehudah is also accused of defrauding a bank by forging subcontractors’ signatures to endorse checks to himself without the subcontractors’ knowledge. 

Yehudah is charged with eight counts of bank fraud and seven counts of wire fraud. His arraignment has not been set. 

In 2002, Yehudah was named in a lawsuit filed by then-Attorney General Jim Ryan after the Chicago Sun-Times reported accusations of misspent agency funds that also involved Yehudah’s FORUM charity. The lawsuit accused Yehudah and David Noffs of improperly spending charity money on an alleged kickback scheme. Noffs was a friend of then-Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan.

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