Prosecutors say Minooka businessman caused $92.5 million in losses to investors

Prosecutors recommend lengthy prison sentence

Dirksen Courthouse.

A Minooka businessman who caused at least 518 investors to lose $92.5 million could face between 21 to about 26 years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.

Kenneth Courtright, owner of Minooka-based Today’s Growth Consultant, which did business as The Income Store, created a “house of cards” that could not last. He tried to defend himself at trial last year with false testimony about the company, according to a sentencing memorandum last Thursday from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Yonan.

Courtright’s long-running fraud scheme caused a “staggering $92.5 million in losses” to at least 518 investors, Yonan said. Courtright also had used $539,715 from his company’s bank accounts to pay his home mortgage an $436,738 for tuition for himself and his children, he said.

The sentencing guidelines in Courtright’s case calls for 21 to 26 years in prison, Yonan said. Courtright is set for a sentencing hearing Jan. 18.

Yonan recommended U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly impose a lengthy prison sentence on Courtright to “fight the perception that white collar defendants are treated differently and more leniently than those who commit other types of crime.”

“White collar crime like the conduct here causes extensive harm to individuals and should not be treated leniently or perceived by the public as being treated leniently, which may cause disrespect for the law and the judicial system,” Yonan said.

Yonan said the “profound and far reaching psychological, emotional, and financial harm” that Courtright had caused warrants a substantial sentence to “send a message to the public that white collar criminals are not treated differently than others.”

As an example, Yonan quoted numerous statements from victims in the case of how Courtright’s fraud caused them humiliation, anxiety, depression, self-doubt and long-term financial challenges.

“After I found out how [Courtright] was spending the investment money we, collectively, had provided on him, on lavish vacations, private school and other luxury experience for himself, I felt as if I couldn’t even trust my own instincts anymore,” according to one victim’s statement.

Yard signs to save Messiah Lutheran sit in the lobby at a press conference 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.

Yonan said Courtright was confronted by his own employees with the failures of his business, confronted by investors on whether he was running a Ponzi scheme and he was rejected by a financial institution he wanted to do business with.

“None of this fazed [Courtright]. Instead, he continued operating in the same fraudulent manner,” Yonan said.

Yonan also recommended that Courtright go to prison immediately after sentencing because he has shown an unwillingness to follow the law or the court’s rules by providing perjured testimony at a jury trial last summer.

Yonan said Courtright provided testimony that conflicted with what he told investors for his company and there were numerous other aspects of his testimony that were false as well. Yonan described Courtright as having a “combative demeanor” while on the witness stand.

That led Yonan to conclude that Courtright “knew what he was doing, and that his testimony was part of a plan to deceive.”

While it was not mentioned in Yonan’s sentencing memorandum, the lawsuit from the U.S. Securities Exchange and Commission against Courtright’s company led to legal troubles for Messiah Lutheran Church in Joliet and Joliet Catholic Academy. Neither the church nor the school have been accused of wrongdoing.

A receiver appointed to take over Courtright’s company had sought to claw back money he gave to the church and school.

Joliet Catholic Academy was able to reach a $100,000 settlement to the receiver. However, Messiah Lutheran Church had to reach out to the community to help pay $300,000 to the receiver, otherwise they would have to sell the church building. The church was able to raise the money needed last November.