The age-old story of the man or woman who tried to cash in on a hefty insurance policy by committing arson and burning down his or her own home is likely familiar to many Americans. That story, however, is not just made-for-T.V., but a real life reality for some people. It’s probably no secret, however, that those people who do try to cash in by burning down a building often wind up facing a conviction on felony crimes charges. Such is the case for a Chicago gay nightclub owner who tried to mask the destruction of his club as a hate crime last year. Last week he was arrested and charged with serious felony crimes.

According to The Chicago Tribune, last year the Chicago gay nightclub Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge went up in a blaze in the early morning hours of June 3. Spray-painted anti-gay slurs covered the walls as the building burned down, prompting gay advocates and the gay community to suspect a hate crime. The club’s owner, 26-year-old Frank Elliott agreed with the concerns that the well-established gay nightclub had been targeted. However, the tables turned when an alleged drunk driver tipped off police officers after he was arrested on a DUI charge.

The alleged drunk driver gave police the evidence they needed to arrest Mr. Elliot. He recorded meetings and conversations with Mr. Elliott, which led the officers to believe that he was involved in burning down the nightclub. Last week, on Friday, Mr. Elliott was arrested and charged with one count of insurance fraud and two counts of arson in connection with the fire.

Prosecutors paint the picture that Mr. Elliott and his friend doused the nightclub in Everclear, spray=painted the derogatory slurs, and then lit the building on fire. Afterwards, Mr. Elliott allegedly tried to collect $150,000 from his insurance company. According to reports, Mr. Elliott’s bail was set at $20,000 and he was scheduled to appear in court this week.

Insurance fraud may seem like a victimless crime to many people, but it is seriously prosecuted in Illinois and a conviction can result in very severe penalties and consequences.

Illinois Law

Under Illinois criminal laws, a person is guilty of insurance fraud when he or she makes a false claim to obtain control over the property of an insurance company, with the intent to deprive the insurance company of the use and benefit of that property permanently. The insurance fraud statute sets forth sentences according to the value of the property that the offender obtains, or attempts to obtain: $300 or less is a Class A misdemeanor; more than $300, but less than $10,000 is a Class 3 felony; more than $10,000 but less than $100,000 is Class 2 felony; and over $100,000 is Class 1 felony. In addition, under the statute, a person must pay monetary restitution to the insurance company.

Although insurance fraud is not a violent crime, it is a serious felony crime that may bring with it a significant prison sentence. If you have been charged with violating Illinois criminal laws, you should immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact a criminal defense attorney at Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.