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Peoria developers sentenced to prison for fraud in Hotel Pere Marquette development deal

Clouds hover over the Pere Marquette Hotel sign in downtown Peoria.
Joe Deacon
Clouds hover over the Pere Marquette Hotel sign in downtown Peoria.

Peoria developers Gary Matthews and Monte Brannan both received prison sentences on Monday.

Central District Judge Sara Darrow handed down the rulings after a nearly 7 1/2-hour long sentencing hearing. Matthews received three years and four months, while Brannan received two years. They have to serve at least 85% of their sentences.

Matthews also will pay $8.2 million in restitution to victims, while Brannan will jointly pay about $4.7 million. The payments will be at least 50% of the pair’s monthly disposable income after their release from prison.

The two men were found guilty of various mail fraud and money laundering charges late last year. During a weeks-long jury trial, federal prosecutors argued the pair misused millions of dollars in invested funds and revenue from the redevelopment of the Hotel Pere Marquette and construction of a new Courtyard Marriott in Downtown Peoria.

That included millions of dollars funneled into bank accounts privately controlled by the pair, and spent on business unrelated to the hotels.

Some of the transactions also occurred in violation of business agreements and a side letter agreement the developers’ entered with the City of Peoria.

Separately, Brannan also pleaded guilty to three additional counts of concealment of bankruptcy assets near the end of the trial.

Attorneys for Brannan and Matthews filed sentencing memorandums late Friday. The memorandums requested a sentence of probation and home confinement. Brannan is 71 and Matthews is 81 years old. The memorandums, along with raising issues with some of the prosecutions’ findings and arguing a low chance of recidivism, allege that any sentence in the initially considered range of 87 to 135 months practically amounts to a life sentence.

Ultimately, Judge Darrow said she did factor age into sentencing, but believed home confinement or probation failed to meet the serious nature of the crime. In addition to their age, the defense also asked the men's health to be taken into account. Letters from the Bureau of Prisons provided by the prosecution indicated the men could have access to adequate health care inside a state facility.

The defense also objected to the total loss calculated by the prosecution. The figure is particularly important in white collar crimes like fraud because it helps set the suggested range for sentencing. However, Darrow’s sentences still landed well below the guidance range the court eventually settled on, which carried a low end of 70 months.

U.S. assistant attorneys Sharbel Rantisi and Peter Lynch contested Assistant United States Attorney Douglas McMeyer’s accounting of the total loss suffered by entities like individual investors, CORE Construction and the City of Peoria.

Darrow did rule the government lacked sufficient evidence to back up their assertion that $1.5 million in loans from CORE construction were used improperly, but overruled objections to the other loss totals.

During their last opportunity to address the court, both Matthews and Brannan pointed to their previously sterling records as developers, their various successful projects and their prominent roles in the community.

“I deeply regret our presence here today,” said Matthews, referring to the friends and family sitting in the benches of the federal courtroom. “And being called fraud is pretty hard to take.”

Brannan referred to the pair’s actions as a “mistake.”

“I maintain my innocence,” he said. “But I respect the jury’s decision.”

While outlining the reasons for her sentencing, Darrow took a moment to address both men’s characterization of the crime. She called them a series of “deliberate decisions.”

“This is not a mistake, it wasn’t. What you did was wrong,” she told Brannan. “You can minimize it all you want.”

Both men are ordered to self-report to their assigned facility at 2 p.m. on May 20. Darrow said she would request confinement at the minimum security camp in Pekin, but couldn’t guarantee where the Bureau of Prisons would choose to place the men.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.