Judge denies acquittal for Minooka man convicted of fraud scheme

The Dirksen Courthouse is pictured in Chicago.

A federal judge denied overturning the verdict of jurors who found a businessman guilty of committing wire fraud through his Minooka company.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly issued his ruling Dec. 27 in favor of prosecutors who secured the conviction against Kenneth Courtright, the owner of Today’s Growth Consultant, following a jury trial last summer.

Courtright is now expected to face a sentencing hearing Jan. 18.

Messiah Lutheran Church in Joliet had received more than $780,000 over the course of almost a decade from Courtright’s company. Last year, this led to legal issues for the church that required them to pay back most of that money following a lawsuit against Courtright’s company from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The church has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

A sign to save Messiah Lutheran sits on the corner of Houbolt Road and Jefferson Street on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 at the church in Joliet. As a result of a lawsuit by the Security and Exchange Commission for fraudulent financial dealings by a local company, Messiah Lutheran is required to pay back $487,000 of the $780,000 that was donated over a 10-year period to the church by this local business.

Courtright motioned Sept. 1 for an acquittal of the wire fraud charges after a jury found him guilty of wire fraud in a seven-count indictment. Courtright claimed prosecutors failed to provide any basis for a reasonable jury to determine that he made false statements in connection with the charges.

In Kennelly’s ruling, he said that the evidence presented at trial, which he took in the “light most favorable” to prosecutors, was sufficient to allow the jury to find Courtright guilty of wire fraud beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Kennelly’s summary of the trial evidence, he said Courtright owned and ran a company called Today’s Growth Company, which did business under name The Income Store.

Courtright had solicited investors — called site partners — to put up money that would be used to buy, create, market or maintain websites, Kennelly said. Those websites were designed to generate revenue, he said.

An investor would enter into an agreement with The Income Store where they would pay an upfront fee for the purchase, hosting, maintenance and marketing of a website, Kennelly said.

Kennelly said the trial evidence showed money was taken from The Income Store’s accounts to pay for Coutright’s home mortgage payments, which totaled $500,000. The evidence also showed money also had been taken from company accounts to pay for tuition for Courtright’s family members, which totaled $400,000, he said.

The evidence also showed that the investors’ websites “never generated sufficient revenues to make the minimum monthly payments” that Courtright had committed to pay to investors, Kennelly said.

The judge said elsewhere in his ruling that the evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to find that Courtright was aware of his company’s “increasing financial problems” and Courtright provided “misleading communication” to investors that minimized the company’s financial troubles.

Kennelly said the evidence presented by prosecutors was enough to show Courtright had engaged in a scheme to make false representations to investors and he did so with the intent to defraud them.