Minooka man convicted of wire fraud sentenced to federal prison

Dirksen Federal Courthouse

A Minooka businessman who was convicted of wire fraud last year was sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ken Courtright, 53, the owner of Today’s Growth Consultant, was sentenced to prison on Thursday but restitution will be decided at a later date, said Joseph Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

The sentence from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly is much lower than what was recommended by prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Yonan said the sentencing guidelines called for Courtright to serve about 21 to 26 years in prison. Yonan also alleged Courtright had caused at least 518 investors to lose $92.5 million.

In a court filing, Courtright’s attorney, Michael Leonard, contended the loss amount alleged by prosecutors was “incorrect and grossly overstated.” He said his client’s sentencing range should be from zero to six months in prison based on the alleged lower loss amount to investors, the money recovered by a court-appointed receiver and the expenses the company paid to its workforce.

Last year, a federal jury found Courtright had committed wire fraud through his Minooka company, Today’s Growth Consultant, which did business as The Income Store.

The SEC filed a lawsuit against the company in 2019, which led to legal troubles to several organizations that received money from Courtright, such as Messiah Lutheran Church and Joliet Catholic Academy. The church and school have not been accused of wrongdoing.

The legal action from the SEC led to Messiah Lutheran Church requiring to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a receiver who took over Courtright’s company. The receiver was appointed by a judge to recover money from investors.

The church campaigned for the community to help pay an outstanding $300,000 bill by the middle of last November, otherwise they faced a potential sale of the church building. The church was able to meet that goal.

Courtright’s attorneys had gathered letters of support from his friends, family and business associates. Among them was Kurt Hoover, a senior pastor with Messiah Lutheran Church, who said in an Aug. 31, 2023 letter that Courtright’s family have been “generous members of the church.”

“Although not intentional, [Courtright] has acknowledged the difficulty his gifts and mistakes have brought upon the church and other charities, and I have absolved him of that sin,” Hoover’s letter said.

In defense of Courtright, Leonard said in the sentencing memorandum that his client’s company “gainfully employed hundreds of real people” who made a “solid living performing real work.”

“What is equally, if not more impressive, is what others have to say about Ken Courtright, his character, and the contributions that he has made to their lives and to the community. Significantly, those words come from many who have allegedly been ‘harmed’ as a direct result of the collapse of Ken’s company,” Leonard said.

Leonard also said Courtright was the only person criminally charged even though “dozens of accountants, lawyers, managers, supervisors, employees, and consultants knew full well exactly how the company operated.”

Yonan, however, said Coutright 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 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.