Prosecutors seek forfeiture of Mokena home in PPP loan fraud case

Jennifer Wirtz (left) and her husband, Joseph Wirtz

Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of a Mokena residence that they claim was bought with more than half of the $1.1 million Paycheck Protection Program loan given to a company based in Joliet.

On Tuesday, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Dant Foulk filed a complaint seeking forfeiture of the residence located in the 1800 block of Hunt Club Drive in Mokena.

Foulk’s complaint alleged that the residence was bought by Jennifer Wirtz, 48, and Joseph Wirtz, 57, with $653,500 of the $1.1 million that was given to Jennifer Wirtz’s company, Josco Construction Services, as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Foulk’s complaint contended that Jennifer and Joseph Wirtz committed money laundering when they “laundered their criminally derived property into their personal residence, making the residence subject to forfeiture under Illinois law.”

The forfeiture complaint is scheduled for a hearing Dec. 28.

The federal program provided loans to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic to help them make payroll. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have been investigating numerous suspects throughout the country for defrauding the program.

Jennifer and Joseph Wirtz are among the latest suspects in Will County to face charges over alleged fraud regarding the Paycheck Protection Program.

A criminal complaint alleged that Jennifer Wirtz applied for a $1.1 million PPP loan and represented all the money would be used for business-related purposes for Josco Construction Services when she knew that was false.

Jennifer Wirtz was charged with laundering the money into a personal savings account and making the $653,000 wire transfer needed to buy a home in which she and Joseph Wirtz reside.

On Tuesday, Joseph Wirtz was booked into the Will County jail and released the same day after a friend posted 10% of his $250,000 bond needed for release, court records show.

It’s not clear whether Jennifer Wirtz has been arrested. Lockport Deputy Chief Ron Huff has not yet responded to calls and messages on the case.

Jennifer and Joseph Wirtz came to the attention of the U.S. Secret Service and Lockport Police Department when both agencies were made aware of possible fraudulent activity regarding portions of a PPP loan, according to Foulk’s complaint.

“Investigators began an investigation into the fraudulent PPP loan, and the subsequent use of the funds and money activity related thereto,” Foulk said.

An analysis of financial records revealed the $1.1 million PPP loan was deposited into the business account for Josco Construction Services on Jan. 22, 2021, Foulk said.

On the same day, the $1.1 million amount was transferred into the personal savings account belonging to Jennifer and Joseph Wirtz, who resided in Lockport, Foulk said.

On Feb. 18, 2021, an outgoing wire transfer of $653,000, along with a $30 wire transfer fee, was drafted from the personal savings account and sent to an escrow account for the purchase of the Mokena residence, Foulk said.

Records obtained by investigators listed the transaction for the purchase of the Mokena home as a cash deal, Foulk said.

Jennifer Wirtz had signed a PPP loan application that indicated the money would be used for payroll costs, utility payments, rent and mortgage interest payments, operation expenses and supplier costs, Foulk’s complaint said.