JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that a contractor charged with home repair fraud and theft pleaded guilty and will be forced to pay restitution to roughly 100 local homeowners who gave him money for work he never performed.
Glasgow last year launched a criminal investigation into contractor Keith Gunter, 43, of Bourbonnais. A prior state’s attorney’s administration initiated only a civil action against Gunter’s insolvent corporation. The civil action failed to yield any restitution for defrauded homeowners.
Gunter, who had been doing business in the Joliet-Plainfield area as Leading Restoration Services Inc., took thousands of dollars in down payments from individual homeowners without performing any work.
In April, Glasgow filed a multi-count criminal complaint against Gunter that included theft by deception, home repair fraud and aggravated home repair fraud. The aggravated home repair fraud charges allege Gunter defrauded three senior citizens. A grand jury handed down indictments in May.
The criminal indictments identified a total of 23 of the 100 homeowners as clear victims of criminal fraud. Their individual losses ranged from $2,000 to $6,972.33. The criminal indictments alleged Gunter took a total of $83,000 from these homeowners.
The civil complaint against the corporation, which was filed by the prior state’s attorney in 2004, identified roughly 100 homeowners who were victims of civil fraud.
“The tragedy of the civil judgment was that it was obtained only against the corporation, which is without assets, and not against Gunter personally,” Glasgow said. “It was meaningless and yielded not a penny of restitution.”
Since his April 28 arrest, Gunter has remained in custody at the Will County Jail on a $1.72 million bond that would have required him to post 10 percent, or $172,000, to secure his release while awaiting trial.
“Our criminal investigation has taken this dodgy contractor off the streets and prevented him from skipping off with more hard-earned cash from other unsuspecting homeowners,” Glasgow said. “The high bail underscored the seriousness of the criminal charges and brought the defendant to the table to talk earnestly about paying back all of his victims.”
Under the agreement hammered out by prosecutors:
- Gunter will plead guilty to three counts of aggravated home repair fraud, two counts of home repair fraud and five counts of theft by deception.
- All 23 of the victims identified in the criminal complaints will receive full restitution amounting to $83,000 from Gunter personally. Gunter will give the state title to property he owns in Alabama to cover the restitution.
- Homeowners named in the civil complaint will now receive some restitution from Gunter personally even though he is not legally obligated to do so under the civil judgment obtained against his insolvent corporation. A portion of this restitution will also be funded through the sale of Gunter’s Alabama property. The level of that compensation is still being calculated.
- The total amount of restitution Gunter will pay could reach $275,000.
- Gunter will be released on a personal recognizance bond and placed on probation for three years. He faces the revocation of his bond, probation and a resulting prison sentence of up to seven years if he fails to pay in full and obey all court orders.
“We’re going to keep him on a very short leash during his probation,” Glasgow said. “I will move immediately to revoke his probation and haul him in for sentencing if he fails to meet any of his court-ordered obligations to pay back the homeowners he ripped off.”
The state’s attorney said he sympathized with frustrated homeowners who tried in vain over the years to get their money back from a crooked contractor. Gunter never returned any deposits even though many of his victims repeatedly contacted him through letters, by telephone or visits to his former place of business on Essington Road in Joliet.
“The plea agreement hammered out by my office will put a significant amount of money back into the pockets of everyone who was defrauded,” Glasgow said. “Many of these homeowners already had written off their losses.”
Glasgow credited Assistant State’s Attorney Chris Koch with working out a plea agreement that will return money to every homeowner named in either the criminal or civil cases.
He also praised Detectives Pete Piazza, Dan Procarione and Michael Kelley for conducting an intensive and thorough investigation that led to the criminal charges against Gunter. The detectives are assigned to the state’s attorney’s office through a cooperative agreement with Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas.
“Sheriff Kaupas exemplifies the true spirit of cooperation in law enforcement by assigning these three detectives to my office. We’ve had an excellent working relationship going back over 25 years that has always made us both more effective in protecting the public,” Glasgow said.