Chicago not-for-profit leader pleads guilty to wire fraud

Yesse Yehudah, president and CEO of Fulfilling Our Responsibilities Unto Mankind, admitted misusing more than $260,000 in state grants.

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Dirksen Federal Courthouse window

Federal prosecutors want Yesse Yehudah, 73, to serve 33 months in prison for wire fraud.

Sun-Times file

The leader of a Chicago not-for-profit pleaded guilty Monday to misusing more than $260,000 in state grant money designated to help spur economic development in Dolton and to create a jobs training program.

Yesse Yehudah will now have to pay back $170,000. So far, he has already paid back $90,000. Yehudah’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 17 with the feds pushing for him to serve up to 33 months in prison.

Yehudah was initially charged in a 15-count federal indictment in 2020 that involved the not-for-profit Fulfilling Our Responsibilities Unto Mankind where he was the president and CEO. Feds accused Yehudah of devising a scheme to cheat the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity from three grants his organization received that totaled $575,000.

Those grants had strict guidelines on how the money could be spent and Yehudah admitted to submitting bogus documents like forging checks and falsifying invoices to make the work seem legit to the DCEO.

He would go on to pocket the money and even made a private loan to another individual. 

The other counts against 73-year-old Yehudah — who was from Chicago but now lives in Wisconsin — will be dropped at sentencing.

This is not the first time Yehudah has faced accusations of misspending agency money.

In 2002, he was named in a lawsuit filed by then-Attorney General Jim Ryan after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on those wrongdoings. 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. Yehudah settled the lawsuit.

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