Grundy County Businessman Charged With Operating Ponzi Scheme
CHICAGO — A Grundy County businessman has been charged with fraud for allegedly orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that raised at least $75 million from more than 500 investors.
KENNETH D. COURTRIGHT owned and operated Today’s Growth Consultant Inc., a Minooka-based business that purported to build or acquire websites for investors. TGC also did business through a division known as The Income Store, which had an office in Lancaster, Penn. From at least January 2017 to October 2019, Courtright falsely promised to provide investors with a guaranteed income stream of up to 20% of their initial investment or 50% of the website revenues, whichever was higher, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Chicago. TGC backed these guarantees through fraudulent claims that the companies were financially healthy, the complaint states.
In reality, the payment of returns to investors was primarily funded through a Ponzi scheme, with Courtright paying early investors with money raised from later investors, the charges allege. Courtright also spent some of the investor funds to pay his mortgage and the school tuition of a family member, the complaint states. By December 2019 the scheme had become unsustainable, and TGC notified investors of a “moratorium” on payments of returns purportedly due to unspecified “challenges and headwinds,” the complaint states.
The complaint charges Courtright, 49, of Minooka, with one count of wire fraud. Courtright was arrested this morning and made an initial court appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey I. Cummings in Chicago. Judge Cummings ordered Courtright released on bond.
The complaint was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason Yonan and Saurish Appleby-Bhattacharjee. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission provided valuable assistance. The SEC previously filed a civil enforcement action and obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Courtright and TGC.
Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The public is reminded that a criminal complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.