Illinois couple sentenced for money laundering, fraud
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com June 17, 2014 6:30PM
Updated: July 19, 2014 6:29AM
Despite continuing to point the finger at a local family of restaurateurs, an Illinois man will serve more than four years in prison for laundering money through a Schererville restaurant he staffed with illegal immigrants.
Michael McClellan’s wife, Tina McClellan, will serve just one day in prison, however, before starting a sentence of a year on home detention for her role in the crime.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon also ordered both of them to pay restitution of $203,844 to Illinois. Michael McClellan must also pay another $8,830 to Indiana.
The Richton Park, Illinois, couple operated T&M Daycare in Calumet City, Illinois, and received funding from Illinois for watching the children of impoverished families. However, federal attorneys claimed during a jury trial at U.S. District Court in Hammond in November that the McClellans inflated the true number of children they watched. One child they claimed to watch had died.
The grand jury found the couple guilty of then laundering part of that money by using it to buy the Paragon Restaurant on U.S. 30 in Schererville in December 2008.
The jury also convicted Michael McClellan of wire fraud and harboring illegal aliens after the government argued he used illegal immigrants to staff the restaurant and housed them in a home next to the restaurant.
Michael McClellan and his attorney, Scott King, insisted during the sentencing hearing Tuesday that the restaurant’s former owners, the Gerodemos family, were the ones who had hired the illegal immigrants and hid their knowledge about a federal investigation from McClellan when he bought the restaurant.
King, who made a similar argument during the trial, claimed the former owner was also skimming money from McClellan by having him hire one of their own to manage the restaurant.
“He signed a deal with a den of thieves,” King said.
The Gerodemos family previously denied any wrongdoing in the case.
King also claimed that McClellan was in over his head and knew nothing about the restaurant business.
McClellan, who is close to finishing rabbinical school, asked Simon for mercy, saying the family had worked hard to achieve the American dream and then give back to their community.
“We are humble, your honor, because we have lost everything,” he said.
Although federal attorneys have said in court documents that the former owners of the restaurant did hire and employ illegal immigrants, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell noted Monday that the Gerodemos family had nothing to do with the McClellans’ defrauding Illinois or laundering money by buying the restaurant.
He asked that Michael McClellan serve 63 months in prison
Simon agreed that the crime was serious and said people who needed financial help wouldn’t receive it as a result of the crime.
“This was a wholesale fraud that’s pretty brazen,” the judge said, calling their use of a dead child to take money from the government “bizarre.”
Simon sentenced Michael McClellan to 51 months in prison, however, noting his history as a dedicated worker and father.
Simon denied the government’s request that Tina McClellan, who did not speak during the hearing, serve some prison time because of the judge’s concern for what would happen to the couple’s children, who would likely end up as wards of Illinois.
Simon said it appeared to him from the evidence that Tina McClellan was likely under her husband’s control.